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Iraqi girl released from Tenn. hospital
Doctors must monitor girls progress before she can return home
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A 2-year-old Iraqi girl who underwent open-heart surgery on Monday left the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University Medical Center to continue her recuperation with a host family in suburban Nashville.

Amenah Al-Bayati is said to doing well after doctors repaired a hole in her heart and redirected the blood flow to her lungs. Both her mother and doctors have noted the improvement in her color. Prior to the surgery, the lack of oxygen had caused her to have blue lips and blueness in her extremities.

She left the hospital to go to the home of Steve and Sara Berger in Leiper’s Fork. Steve Berger is pastor of Grace Chapel, a church near Nashville.

Maj. Kevin Jarrard of Gainesville, who is serving his second tour in Iraq, began the effort to bring the little girl and her mother to the hospital in Nashville where her care has been provided without cost.

Amenah and her mother, Maha Mohammed Al-Sumaidaie, came to the U.S. in January after being flown out of Iraq by helicopter. They were shuttled to Amman, Jordan, where they boarded a flight to Chicago and on to Nashville.

The mother and daughter are expected to remain in the Nashville area for at least three weeks, as doctors continue to monitor Amenah’s progress from the three-hour surgery.

Karla Christian, a pediatric heart surgeon, believes Amenah will need no further surgery.

"This is a rare condition and we chose the operation that was best for her, keeping in mind that when she returns to Iraq, she will not have access to a cardiologist," Christian said.

Those who are surrounding Amenah worry that the life she must return to is full of the danger that comes with a nation at war, but they also know that Iraq is home. Maha has said she cannot wait to return to Amenah’s father, two brothers and sister.

A fundraising effort is still under way to pay for the cost of the return trip home. Contributions can be made at any branch of BB&T Bank.