When he was born in Iraq, little Karm's right arm and hand were paralyzed. But he had two things in his favor: Both his parents were pediatricians and both refused to give up hope.
Now partly thanks to their global search to find treatment, the 8-month-old baby was scheduled to be treated Tuesday by a Houston surgeon who specializes in helping children with brachial-plexus injuries like Karm's.
"Karm is our miracle," said the baby's mother, Zina. "I can only say the word 'thanks' for so many good persons who helped my son and my family."
Karm's parents, whose last names have been withheld due to security concerns, knew that surgery to repair the damage should be performed within a year.
Dr. Rahul Nath, who is performing the costly surgery for free through his Texas Nerve and Paralysis Institute, has been consulting with the family since shortly after Karm's birth.
Karm's father, Mustafa, first sent out e-mails to 15 brachial-plexus experts asking for help. Nath was the only one who responded.
However, politics nearly kept Karm from coming to Houston. The Iraqi Ministry of Health can ban physicians from traveling outside the country an effort to halt the exodus of doctors from the war-ravaged nation. It took months for Zina to get clearance to travel to the United States. Mustafa was not allowed to come with his family.
After their plight was publicized, the family received help from the National Iraqi Assistance Center in Baghdad, a humanitarian relief program run jointly by Iraqis and the U.S. Army Civil Affairs division. A Houston immigration attorney, Nicole Morrison, also offered to house the family while they are in Houston.
The majority of brachial-plexus injuries, also known as Erb's Palsy, are caused by trauma during delivery. Nerves are pulled out of the spinal cord and the affected limb is left immobile, often becoming gnarled and twisted, reports AP.
About two of every 1,000 children born in the U.S. have brachial plexus birth injuries, more than the number affected by Down's Syndrome or Muscular Dystrophy. The numbers are higher in developing countries.