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Iraqi Child’s Life In Balance

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12-year-old Paralyzed by Accidental Mortar Being Evacuated to USA

BETHESDA, Md., Jan. 22 /PRNewswire/ — A U.S. mortar attack that hit the wrong target has threatened the future of a child in Iraq. But the National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NSCIA) is stretching its reach to help her rebuild her life. Ma’rwa Ahteemi, a 12-year-old living in the dangerous Sunni Triangle, was at home when the mortar hit. Seventeen family members were injured, and five were killed.

NSCIA learned today that the Department of Defense (DOD) will evacuate Ma’rwa to the Washington, DC area for treatment at National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) to get the medical care and rehabilitation she needs to survive. She is currently in a U.S. military MASH hospital in Iraq. There is no pediatrician there, and no equipment to treat a paralyzed child. The only American pediatrician in Iraq is lending her assistance from another location, but she has no experience with spinal cord injuries, and she leaves that country this week.

On December 22nd, NSCIA received an email from an Iowa Reservist serving in Iraq. Marcie Roth, CEO of NSCIA, began facilitating the care Ma’rwa needs, reaching out to Senator Harkin of Iowa, NRH and DOD to help. “A US military hospital is no place for a child,” Roth said. “There’s a dedicated team led by a wonderful Army Physical Therapist caring for her, but they are swamped with treating US soldiers with life threatening injuries. Moreover, Ma’rwa needs specialized care not available in Iraq. That is why we are trying to help.” Ma’rwa is not well-nourished and she is sleeping on an Army cot, so pressure sores are now a devastating complication, destroying most of one buttock and part of her back. She is very vulnerable to an infection that could kill her. NSCIA worked with NRH to deploy a Tele-rehabilitation team who are consulting via email and satellite phone with the team in Iraq. NRH runs the newly opened National Center for Children’s Rehabilitation jointly with Children’s National Medical Center. They are holding a bed and have committed to raise the funds to cover her expenses.

“We are delighted that Ma’rwa is finally being evacuated. She is expected to arrive in Washington DC in a few days thanks to Sen. Harkin with exemplary cooperation from DOD,” Roth said. “It’s taken a month to navigate the bureaucratic maze but we felt compelled to press on. We have been committed to facilitate Ma’rwa’s access to treatment to save her life and enable her to maximize her independence. With appropriate pediatric rehabilitation, Ma’rwa can live a full life. But, if it doesn’t begin soon, her health will deteriorate and she will not be able to benefit.”

About the National Spinal Cord Injury Association

NSCIA is the nation’s oldest and largest civilian organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the hundreds of thousands of Americans living with spinal cord injuries and diseases, and the thirty individuals newly-injured each day. NSCIA educates and empowers survivors to achieve and maintain independence, health and personal fulfillment by providing peer support and raising awareness through education, injury prevention, and improvements in medical, rehabilitative and supportive services, research and public policy formulation. NSCIA has chapters and support groups across the US and a Resource Center ( serving thousands of individuals daily.

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