Sounds of joy and laughter resonate through a police station’s narrow hallways. A young boy slowly enters through a doorway at the end to greet the boisterous group of Marines, but the sounds of excitement quickly diminish as they see him gasping for air after walking just a short distance.
The boy, five-year-old Ahmed, is the son of Warrant Officer Othman Mallouki, an Iraqi policeman with Fallujah Headquarters District. Since his birth, Ahmed has suffered from a rare but fatal heart condition that if left untreated, will eventually kill him at an unthinkable, young age.
Ahmed’s parents first noticed there was something wrong with their son when he was a year old. The medical condition present in Ahmed’s cardiac system keeps needed oxygen from reaching organs like a normal person’s circulatory system would, causing a bluish coloring around the eyes and on the face.
Tasks such as walking up a set of stairs are very tedious for the young boy because of his medical condition. Ahmed runs completely out of breath performing the simplest of daily activities.
“I was extremely worried all these years, that I might not be able to get the help my son needs,” said Mallouki. “In our culture, the first born is very important and this is our first son.”
Only recently did the light begin to peak through at the end of a dark tunnel for Ahmed and his family when Marines from Company B, Police Transition Team 8, Regimental Combat Team 1, and a charitable organization called “Gift of Life,” based in Tampa, Fla. intervened.
Ahmed’s condition was diagnosed at Fallujah Surgical when Marines took him in for an examination, said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Craig W. Pasanen, a corpsmen with the team. Doctors discovered a hole in the septum of his heart that causes oxygen and deoxygenated blood to pass through the heart and not the lungs.
Mallouki and his son have been working with Coalition forces for the past year in attempts to get the money and medical attention that they so desperately need to help Ahmed.
The operation to mend Ahmed’s heart will be extensive and will require a specialist to stitch the hole inside his heart that is causing his condition.
But medical expenses for the family soon became too much. The nearest qualified specialist who can perform the surgery locates at a surgical clinic in Jordan. The family had no way of earning the money they need to travel and pay for Ahmed’s medical expenses.
Several months ago, members of the team contacted representatives at “Gift of Life,” who began sponsoring Mallouki and Ahmed. In June, Mallouki was able to apply for Visas that would allow the father and son access into Jordan. Their travel expenses were also covered by the charitable organization, and Transition Team members organized several convoys to Baghdad, Iraq, to assist.
Ahmed will finally undergo the surgery he’s needed sometime this month.
“Before I could not hope for anything at all and I was depressed all the time,” said Mallouki. “Now I feel in my heart a sense of hope that my son will grow up normal. I would not have this hope in my life if it weren’t for the Marines here.”