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Saving baby Fatemeh

Iranian infant initially banned from the U.S. will receive life-saving heart surgery at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital
Laurie Armsby, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and interim head of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology Doctors at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland speaks at a press conference, February 4, 2017, announcing that Fatemeh Reshad, an infant from Iran with a life-threatening heart condition, will be allowed to come into the U.S. and have surgery. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

Four-month-old Fatemeh Reshad made headlines around the world this week after her family was denied access to the United States, preventing her from receiving a heart procedure that would save her life. Hospitals in her home country, Iran, one of the seven countries included in the executive order on immigration issued last week, do not offer the highly complex medical and surgical services necessary to treat her condition, transposition of the great arteries.

Fatemeh Reshad, an infant from Iran with a life-threatening heart condition, will be treated at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon. Representatives from OHSU Doernbecher have been working with the Reshad family, the immigration attorneys working on their behalf, and with elected officials to facilitate the child’s care. (Family photo)

During a press conference Saturday, Feb. 4, a team of physicians announced Fatemeh would be treated at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, Oregon.

After reviewing Fatemeh’s medical records, provided by the family, OHSU Doernbecher physicians confirmed an urgent need for treatment requiring a high level of pediatric medical and surgical expertise not available in her home country.

Fatemeh was born with a rare and complex congenital heart disease that affects two out of every 10,000 newborns worldwide.

“There is a treatment, and once it is completed, we expect this child to live a full life, without the burden of lifelong medical care," said Laurie Armsby, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics and interim head of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology at OHSU Doernbecher, OHSU School of Medicine.

Irving Shen, M.D., head of the Division of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at OHSU Doernbecher, OHSU School of Medicine, will perform the five- to six-hour procedure. Shen is a nationally accomplished expert on Fatemeh’s condition. He and his team perform approximately 10 of these procedures each year. While the Reshad family’s arrival date has yet to be determined, Armsby emphasized the situation is urgent.

“The sooner we can perform the surgery, the better the outcome will be,” she said.

Jennifer Morrissey, J.D., one of the attorneys representing the Reshad family, expects Fatemeh to arrive in Portland in a few days. Other hospitals around the country offered their services, but the Reshad's chose OHSU Doernbecher because of its pediatric cardiac expertise and because of its proximity to the baby's uncle and grandparents.

“The family is overwhelmingly relieved and thrilled the baby is coming here for surgery,” Morrissey said.

“We are here to take care of every child we can, and we are pleased to take care of this child from Iran,” said Dana Braner, M.D., F.A.A.P., F.C.C.M. Braner is physician-in-chief of OHSU Doernbecher and chair of the Department of Pediatrics, OHSU School of Medicine. “Doernbecher Children’s Hospital is 90 years old. In that time, we’ve never turned away a child, nor do we ever expect to.”

View footage from the press conference here.

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