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Blind Iraqi girl gets new set of eyes in London

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BAGHDAD (AP) — A 3-year-old Iraqi girl who was blinded and disfigured in a 2006 Baghdad car bombing has returned home to Baghdad with a new set of prosthetic eyes after a trip to London for medical treatment.

Shams still can't see, but her family says the reconstructive surgery — which is expected to take years — will give her a chance to live a normal life without the stigma of a scarred appearance.

"Her condition has already improved with her new appearance," said her father, Husham Fadhil. "Her two brothers were impressed when they saw her eyes. But she is still very active. She does not need to go to any doctor here."

Shams, whose name in Arabic means "sun," was riding with her mother in the back seat of her father's pickup truck when a car bomb exploded nearby on Nov. 23, 2006 — one of five simultaneous blasts that killed more than 200 people in Baghdad's Shiite district of Sadr City.

Her mother died. The girl survived but her face was severely injured and her eyes were destroyed.

Shortly after the bombing, she was treated at a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Amman, Jordan. But the eye specialists determined her sight could not be restored, so she returned home.

Her story touched many hearts after it was reported by The Associated Press and posted on YouTube. The Times of London took up her cause and raised 130,000 pounds ($213,000) to enable Shams to travel to London for surgery.

She underwent two operations at Moorfields Eye Hospital, including one in which she received the prosthetic, brown eyes.

Shams and her family also received further treatment and counseling on living with her blindness under the care of the Great Ormond Street hospital for children and the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

The lead doctor treating Shams, Yassir Abou-Rayyah, who has waived his fees for her care, said she needs to come back after six months for further reconstructive surgery on her eyelids, according to her father.

He said experts who visited Shams were impressed by her independence.

"They were very impressed by Shams' ability to walk alone and at how alert and clever she is," he said.


Associated Press Writer Nancy Zuckerbrod in London contributed to this report.


Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.


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