Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Midwest Foundation Helps Iranian Children Needing Medical Treatment

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Midwest Foundation Helps Iranian Children Needing Medical Treatment

Article excerpt

Midwest Foundation Helps Iranian Children Needing Medical Treatment

This year's celebration by Iranian communities all over the world of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, on March 21st, and the Muslim observance one week earlier of Eid al Fitr and the end of Ramadan, provided annual opportunities to remember the less fortunate. This is the everyday goal, however, of the two- year-old Foundation for the Children of Iran (FCI).

Sahm, a five-year-old boy diagnosed at birth with a serious heart condition caused by a defective and obstructed valve, was selected as FCI's first case. He needed a surgical procedure which was not available in Iran. In January 1992 he arrived in Minnesota, where Dr. Harold Katkov of the Minneapolis Children's Medical Center performed a pulmonary balloon valvuloplasty. This consists of inflating the defective valve with a balloon. Four months later, Sahm was able to return to Iran.

A year later, the FCI took on the case of Leyla, a 16-year-old girl who suffered from a deformed back and spine. When she arrived in the U.S. in August 1993, she was barely able to walk. Rods and hooks to readjust Leyla's spine were applied by Dr. John Lonstein of the Minnesota Spine Center. In 10 hours of anterior and posterior spinal surgery at the Fairview Riverside Medical Center in Minneapolis, Leyla's spine was repositioned. Five days later she began to walk again and later was able to return to Iran.

Founded in 1992 by Nazie Eftekhari, a mother of two who runs Ethix Midwest, a Minnesota-based managed care organization, FCI is a non-profit, non- partisan organization designed to help children of Iranian origin obtain medical services that are not presently available in Iran. "I felt I needed to do something for the children back there," Eftekhari said. "Iran still lacks the support services, the equipment, the adequate nursing, and other basic necessities such as antibiotics and blood."

Before FCI accepts a case, it is investigated by a team of volunteers. Although it has never had problems with the Iranian government, the FCI must abide by strict American immigration rules. This makes obtaining a visa for these children the first difficult task.

For each case it takes on, the FCI must submit detailed medical and legal files to the Immigration and Naturalization Services, along with personal guarantees to insure the child will return to Iran after his or her treatment. This is why FCI can not consider cases of children suffering from chronic disease or terminal illness.

During the investigation, the foundation also makes sure that the medical procedure is indeed not available in Iran. …

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