By Terri Carlson
I want to tell you about a very special little girl, Maryam. She was born in Iraq, with a deforming germ cell tumor on her face and because of her deformity, her father put her in a room, without food or water, to let her die. Her mother Rasha, a very brave young woman in a country where women have no say, took the child home to her family and tried to find medical help for the baby. When Maryam’s father learned of this he went to the hospital and tore up the baby’s birth records so Rasha could not take her out of the country.
Left with no alternative, and watching her child suffer and slowly die, Rasha brought Maryam to where U.S. Soldiers were stationed; asking for medical help. They made it possible for Rasha to seek help at The King Hussein Cancer Center in Jordan. The KHCC took great care of Maryam but if her life was to be saved she would have to receive medical treatment in the United States. However, her chance of survival was extremely poor and no hospital would risk taking her case.
When The Ray Tye Medical Aid Foundation learned of Maryam’s case and her mere 30% chance of survival, we were willing to take the chance to save her life and went all out to bring her to Boston. The Foundation, in partnership with Tufts Medical Center, took on the case.
Maryam arrived here in Boston in September, 2008 and her fight for life began. She went through so much – 6 months of chemotherapy then 2 surgeries—yet she always had a smile on her face. After her first surgery, we put on an Elmo video (her favorite) to try and wake her up. Once the music started her little legs began dancing even while hooked up to so many tubes. I started crying right there in her room because she’d endured so much, never giving up and always with that happy smile on her face.
Ten days after Maryam’s second surgery, her aggressive tumor grew back with a vengeance. Tragically, despite her strong desire to live and although she fought so hard, Maryam passed away on May 30, 2009. It saddened us all but her will to live was a lesson we will never forget. Even now I can still see her smile.
I consider it a privilege to have known Maryam; she was an inspiration to all of us. I would like to personally thank Dr. Kretschmar, Dr. Heilman and Dr. Wein, Katie Blake and all of the wonderful caring nurses and doctors in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Tufts Medical Center who worked on Maryam’s case. They did a heroic and unbelievable job taking care of her.
I would also like to thank Mohamed Khafif (an angel sent from God); Mickey, Jim and MariKay Satryano who befriended Rasha and Maryam during their long ordeal and all of the other people around the world that prayed for this brave little girl.