At the Hospital, they call her the ICU walking miracle. Her name is Irini Hany Fouad. Irini turned 8 this month. She was admitted to Hospital 5 years ago on the 21rst of February 2011 and diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. I wanted to meet the girl who fought fiercely for her life during 43 days in the Intensive Care unit where many thought she would never make it.
Irini is waiting patiently with her parents outside the plastic surgeon clinic on the third floor. She has to periodically undergo a painful procedure which will ultimately correct the skin and complexion around her chin, damaged by a deadly bacterial infection outbreak.
Despite her frail appearance, she strikes me as being a vibrant, smart and an outgoing little girl.
The minute I sat beside her to engage in a conversation, she would not stop talking.
What a lovely outfit you are wearing, Irini, the colors are matching beautifully!
Mum got it for me, but I matched everything around it.
What is it that you love to do the most?
Playing, drawing, laughing and joking with people.
And what about school and studying?
Her Mother is quick to interfere, confirming that Irini is a bright, studious, and hardworking girl in school.
What do you want to do when you grow up?
I want to be a doctor here at the hospital and learn how to give injections to the children with no pain.
This is the only instant where I could feel that the little girl was apprehending the periodical plastic surgery procedure she is about to go through.
Her Mother explains;
God and Hospital 57357 have worked miracles with Irini. Irini has successfully completed leukemia treatment and she is cancer free. The reason we come periodically is that she has to undergo a painful procedure to gather enough skin under her chin to be able to stretch it around the lower part of her jaws where it was scared and damaged severely because of a terrible infection. The procedure consists of injecting a rectangular segment under her chin with a solution to induce it to form enough healthy skin which could be stretched around her jaws. This healthy bright skin would replace the one taken from her thighs previously to replace temporarily the dead infected skin around that area.
It is only then that I fully realize that Irini’s beautiful face is indeed scared sideways around her jaws. She shows me the inflated segment under her chin which she calls “my cushion”.
I look at Irini with awe and thank God that the scars on her face and the “cushion” have not affected her jolly, outspoken personality. It must be so difficult to escape the curiosity and mockery of her schoolmates.
Irini’s mother recalls Irini’s episode in the ICU: Three weeks after we started the chemotherapy sessions, irini’s immunity was so low that she contracted a severe bacterial infection which attacked all the soft tissues in her face. First her face and neck got so swollen that it blocked her respiratory movement. Then came the bleeding under the skin around the chin, then it turned black and fell away. They had to reconstruct quickly this part with skin taken from her thighs.
What were your feelings when she was in the ICU for so long between life and death?
Strangely enough, I was quite serene. I left it all to God the minute I learned my only child was sick with cancer, but I also knew that in the ICU, all the staff were doing the impossible to save her life.
I was curious to chat with Irini’s physician, Dr. Iman Sidhom, about her condition. She shared with me that Irini is indeed a walking miracle. She has successfully completed her cancer treatment which was interrupted with the outbreak of the deadly infection.” On one specific week-end she was so bad, I thought she would not make it through” recalls Dr. Sidhom. “But Thank God, we changed the antibiotic and she was able to overcome the infection. Irini is a real fighter. She is in the follow-up phase, and soon enough, she will regain a healthy, beautiful complexion thanks to our plastic surgeon.
I leave Dr. Iman with a good feeling about Irini’s future. She will be able to dream like all the children of her age of what she will become when she grows up!