Published: December 2006

Online Extra

Field Hospital

Iraqi Wounded

Against the Odds: U.S. Medical Teams Offer a Measure of Hope to Injured Iraqis

By Neil Shea
Photograph by James Nachtwey

On the second floor of the military hospital, tucked away in a back corner, a tiny blond boy mumbles in the secret language of babies. He shudders beneath blankets and bandages, belly down on a large bed. Helicopters thump overhead, but the noise does not wake him. He is used to it now.

His cheeks are pink, his hair so fair he could be Norwegian. But he is an 18-month-old Iraqi from a town near the Syrian border. He was severely burned in his home, and his parents sought help at a U.S. military base. Soldiers took him in, then flew him to Ibn Sina, the American-run hospital in Baghdad.

The boy, above, was not an unlucky bystander. He was not collateral damage. None of the forces fighting in Iraq pull blame for his burns. It was a domestic accident, his parents said. There was a boiling pot of soup. A confused scalding. Screams.

In a way, he is fortunate because of the war. Thanks to it, he now sleeps in the best hospital in Iraq. Drugs soften his pain. American surgeons have begun grafting skin over the raw red patches on his arms, legs, and buttocks. Under Saddam Hussein, this would have been impossible. The boy might have died of the infections that follow burns.

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