Georgia soldiers complete a life-saving mission - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

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Georgia soldiers complete a life-saving mission

Baby Noor Baby Noor
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February 10, 2006

Atlanta - Last February 9th, we watched the Georgia National Guard 48th Brigade soldiers train for war.  But none of that training could have prepared them for this.

"As they were going through this house, searching for bad guys, this lady walks out and approaches this soldier and says 'My granddaughter is going to die. Is there anything you can do for her?'" says U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss.

The heavily armed soldiers were face to face with a tiny dying baby.

"She held up this little three month old baby, and of course here this soldier is carrying out his job in a very professional way and all of a sudden he's faced with this very human crisis," said Chambliss.

 In that moment, the citizen soldiers of the 48th Brigade found themselves on a new mission. 

 "I have a good friend who goes to church here," says Debbie Stone. 

 Her friend is 48th Brigade Lieutenant Jeff Morgan. They both attend The Sheperd of the Hills Methodist Church in Douglasville, Georgia.  Morgan contacted Debbie Stone about their heartwrenching discovery.

"He had e-mailed me back on the 9th of December and was telling me about this child they had found," said Stone.

"We just knew that she had a tumor on her back and that this child was sent home to die within 45 days and he was just asking if there was anything, I still get chills thinking about it, but if there was anything that we could do to help."

So Debbie Stone got busy, too. "I just started e-mailing and making some phone calls to people I knew in the medical arena to see what kind of connections we could make."

The baby would first have to make the trip to the United States. So an e-mail was sent to U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.  "Our involvement was just from the standpoint of trying to cut through all the red tape and get the appropriate passports and visas in place," said the Senator.

It took three weeks to get the paperwork through and all the while, the soldiers snuck through the dark, violent streets of Abu-Ghraib to check on the baby. Chambliss said, "These guys in the 48th Brigade risked their lives time and time again to visit this little girl during the three weeks process that it took to get the passports and U.S. visas done so this little girl could get over here."

At Sheperd of the Hills Church, progress was being made.  "We got the promise from Children's Healthcare and Dr. Hudgins to commit to do all the surgeries for free," Debbie Stone said.

Pediatric Neurosurgeon Dr. Roger Hudgins said, "What the child had looked to be a mass on the back"  Dr.  Hudgins agreed to perform the life-saving surgery free. Humanitarian work he's done plenty of times.

But this was different. "What makes this so different is the connection to Iraq and to the Georgia National Guard who really are the ones who got the ball rolling."

The ball was rolling at ChildSpring International, too. Christina Porter said  "Baby Noor is the first of our children for 2006."  The International Children's Medical Charity helps children worldwide. "They chose not to immunize her or do any of the normal new baby care and took her home and just waited"

Waited-- for her to die. ChildSpring knew that with Baby Noor they had to move fast.  "What we normally take eight to 10 to 12 weeks to accomplish we had to do in eight days under worldwide media scrutiny," Porter said.

And the world watched as the soldier's mission was carried out.  "And the next thing we knew is, Dawn, this little girl was in America. And boy, what a great story it is," Senator Chambliss said.

Thirty days from the day Debbie Stone received that e-mail from Lieutenant Morgan, Baby Noor underwent surgery. "You look at what happened in that time frame and us to be able to get her, to find her and get her over here and in housing and having surgery to save her life, it truly was a miracle," said Stone.

Now, One month to the day of the operation, Baby Noor is doing well. A happy ending to a story that is perhaps about more than life-saving surgery.

Debbie Stone and Lt. Jeff Morgan say it's about building trust and restoring hope in a war-torn country. "But he said, 'You know, Debbie,' the reason why he feels like that is if we make a difference in touching a child's life, and in making someone's child better, what better way to make that human connection with these people. To let them known that we as Americans truly do care about them."

Chambliss said, "His reaction is what you would hope would be the reaction of every American and that is one of compassion."

"There are so many of these soldiers who truly do want to make a difference. And I realize and so many of us do realize, that that's not their true mission and they know that, too, but I think that they want to make and see a difference," said Stone.

"I think that the true heroes are our soldiers," said Dr. Hudgins.

And the Citizen Soldiers of Georgia's 48th Brigade have made a difference. They not only saved a baby girl's life, but they've shown us that even in war, there's always a place for compassion.

As a result of the Baby Noor rescue, help is on the way for hundreds of other Iraqi children. Debbie Stone and her church have founded www.LifeOver.org, a non-profit agency that will assist in Iraqi medical care and treatment.

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