Ronald McDonald House hosts Iraqi heart patients

By Howard Koplowitz

Ashjan Khaled Ðwhose first name means “many tears” in ArabicÐ has been staying at the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island in New Hyde Park since mid-December after her operation at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx arranged through the Gift of Life, a humanitarian division of Rotary International.Her father, Khalid Jarallah, said her name will be changed to Farrah, or “beautiful,” when she returns to Iraq because of the surgery. He said a person changing names after they undergo a significant life experience is common in his culture.”It's a tremendous gesture,” he said through an interpreter of the arrangements to have his daughter treated for the condition. “We're very grateful. We're very happy to be here.” The interpreter, Alex Tucciarone, 20, and his father are members of the Flushing Rotary Club and have been serving as hosts for Ashjan, according to the Ronald McDonald House. Jarallah said he and his daughter will be leaving the cozy house “sometime in the next few weeks” for Iraq, but he is not concerned about going back to the volatile country.He and Ashjan live in Knain City near the Iranian border. “Small town,” he said in English, noting that the fighting has not spread to Knain City. “No problem,” Jarallah said when asked if he was worried about returning to Iraq. Also staying at the house is Wsim Rabea, 11, and his father Rabea Abo Sendra from Kut, a town in the southeastern Iraq.Wsim was rushed to Montefiore's children hospital Dec. 19 after landing at Kennedy Airport from Amman, Jordan for a series of open-heart surgeries that saved his life, according to the hospital.He suffered from sub-aortic valve stenosis, a condition that can cause sudden death and is marked by reduced blood flow from the left ventricle in the heart to the large aortic artery. Montefiore became involved in treating Ashjan, Wism and three other Iraqi children's heart problems after being contacted by Sgt. Marikay Satryano, a reservist assigned to the U.S. military's Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Center, or HACC, located in the so-called “Green Zone” of Iraq where fighting has been fierce.According to the hospital, Satryano identified 60 Iraqi children who would benefit from having surgery in the U.S. She researched the Gift of Life on the Internet, contacted a rotary club in Amman and was able to arrange for some of the children to be operated on at Montefiore.Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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