Published: Nov. 12, 2009

Iraqi boy continues treatment with MSU doctor, enjoys first Halloween

Contact(s): Jason Cody Media Communications office: (517) 432-0924 cell: (734) 755-0210

EAST LANSING, Mich. — With the help of a Michigan State University surgeon and medical team from Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital, a 12-year-old Iraqi boy brought to mid-Michigan for medical care for severe burns has undergone four surgeries and is well on the road to recovery.

But more important to Mohammed – who was brought to East Lansing last spring by a Michigan Army National Guardsmen – was his haul of candy last month during his first Halloween experience.

“He had a great time trick-or-treating on Halloween with his host family,” said Maj. David Howell, the man responsible for bringing Mohammed to mid-Michigan in early April. “We remain extremely grateful for the support and help from everyone across mid-Michigan who has contributed to Mohammed’s recovery.”

Mohammed, who was severely injured by an exploding oil lamp when he was a few months old, is badly burned along the left side of his head, face and body, and has lost most movement in his left hand. He never received proper medical treatment.
Medical efforts are being led by Edward Lanigan, a surgeon with MSU’s College of Human Medicine who works at Sparrow and is offering his services for free. Mohammed meets weekly with the team from MSU’s Department of Surgery to inject saline fluid into the implanted tissue expander in his scalp. That reconstructive process allows Mohammed to grow extra skin and tissue to cover up his burns. His most recent surgery was in mid-October.
“So far, we have been able to remove about half of the burned scalp area,” said Lanigan, who sees Mohammed once a week for treatment. “He is responding well, and we hope to cover the rest of his scalp soon, and we continue with tissue expander treatments.”

After his surgically reconstructed left ear heals in a few weeks, Mohammed will be seen by an optometrist to correct poor vision in his left eye, Howell said. He also is receiving dental care in Jackson and has had nine cavities filled so far.

The story began last November when Howell, while on duty in Ramadi, spotted Mohammed with his mother. Howell eventually learned of the boy’s story of being burned and how his father was slain by insurgents after they discovered he was working as an interpreter for American forces.
Howell worked with American, Iraqi and Kuwaiti officials to bring Mohammed to mid-Michigan, where a welcome ceremony was held at the National Guard headquarters in Lansing. While Mohammed recovers, he is staying with a host family Howell found through the Islamic Center of East Lansing and is attending school.

Mohammed’s visa expires in April 2010, and it appears his medical care is on schedule.

To help cover costs, Howell has set up a nonprofit organization called Martyr Medical Fund for Children, which will provide humanitarian medical assistance and treatment to the children of Iraqi interpreters killed in the line of duty. To make a donation or gather more information about the organization, visit


Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.

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Maj. David Howell with the Michigan National Guard stands next to Mohammed, a 12-year-old Iraqi boy who has come to Lansing for medical treatment. Photo courtesy of the Michigan National Guard.

Maj. David Howell with the Michigan National Guard stands next to Mohammed, a 12-year-old Iraqi boy who has come to Lansing for medical treatment. Photo courtesy of the Michigan National Guard.

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