Less than 24 hours after he turned 9, Mohammad Karime, of Iran, received an unusual present: a tear duct.
Marking his 19th surgery in his nine years of life, Karime has spent more than two years in waiting rooms and on surgery tables with surgeons from Iran to Binghamton, and now Latham, searching for medical ways to restore the face of a boy who was left with several impairments as a result of a craniofacial birth defect.
Karime's story began when Dr. Mohammad Baghaei-Rad, a surgeon whose practice is run out of Amsterdam, traveled to Iran and met Karime as he was venturing through Nishad.
In one of my humanitarian trips to Iran, I came across this little boy, said Baghaei-Rad. "Unfortunately, all the plastic surgeons in Iran threw their hands up and said they couldn't do anything for him."
According to Baghaei-Rad, Karime's face had looked similar to the way a cleft mouth may appear, only the defect encompassed Karime's entire face, leaving him with only one eye, a mouth that had formed at a 45 degree angle, and the omission of a tear duct to control the dripping of tears to Karime's only remaining eye.
"Literally, he didn't have half a face," he said. "And because of the complexity of his case, it was difficult for him to find treatment over there."
As a member of Gift of Life, a division of the Rotary Club whose members assist children with life-threatening conditions, Baghaei-Rad had decided to bring Karime to America, where he could receive the proper treatment, at no cost to his family.
"Five years ago was his first trip [to the United States]," said Baghaei-Rad, speaking on behalf of Karime's mother, who speaks little English and has used Baghaei-Rad as her translator while in America. "The first time we brought this kid here, I had made an arrangement with a craniofacial surgeon in Binghamton, who arranged the bones in his face to create an eye socket."