OHSU doctors optimistic treatment for Iranian baby will be successful

PORTLAND, Ore. (KATU) - Doctors at Oregon Health & Science University’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital are preparing for the arrival of a 4-month-old baby girl from Iran so she can be treated for a rare and eventually fatal heart condition.

Late Friday night, the Donald Trump administration granted a waiver for Fatemah Rashad and her family to travel to the United States after elected officials in Oregon and New York worked feverishly to get the girl to the United States.

The girl has family in Portland and they have elected to have her treated at OHSU.

“We are thrilled to take care of this child from Iran,” said Dr. Dana Braner, the chief physician at Doernbecher, during a Saturday morning news conference.

Iran was one of the seven countries President Trump included in his executive order banning immigration and refugees. A federal judge in Seattle late Friday afternoon temporarily blocked the ban.

Critics of the ban pointed to Fatemah’s case as evidence that it was inhumane.

“I definitely think it’s probably the clearest illustration that I can think of offhand why the travel ban was poorly thought out, poorly executed, and had significant humanitarian consequences,” said Jennifer Morrissey, an attorney representing the family of the girl.

Dr. Laurie Armsby described the surgery the girl will need as complex, but was hopeful the girl will recover and live an active and full life.

She said most babies born in the United States with the same condition receive treatment within the first week of being born and recover in the intensive care unit for about a week. However, since Fatemah is 4 months old and hasn’t immediately received care, her treatment will be more complicated. But doctors hope that any damage that has been done will be reversible.

Armsby said doctors expect Fatemah to recover from the surgery over a few months and doctors in the United States will consult with doctors in Iran after she returns home.

Armsby said Fatemah’s condition doesn’t allow the heart to properly circulate blood in her body. The blood coming into her heart is supposed to be pumped through the lungs to pick up needed oxygen. But in Fatemah’s case, the heart pumps blood back into the body and not through the lungs.

The surgery is intended to fix that problem.

Braner said no public funds will be used to treat the girl, and the doctors who will be involved have agreed to waive their fees. He said he doesn’t believe the family will carry a significant financial burden.

“In the 90 years that Doernbecher has been a hospital, we’ve never turned away a child, and we never expect to,” Braner said.

Watch the OHSU news conference:

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