Beautiful Teeba

"She had the saddest face. And whatever it was about her face, it just compelled me. I couldn't get it out of my head," says Barbara, describing 6-year-old Teeba. Barbara first learned about the Iraqi child in July of 2006, when she read an article about children in Iraq who needed extended surgeries. The doctors were fleeing the country. Teeba had been the victim of a car bomb.

"I e-mailed the correspondent in Baghdad," Barbara continues, "and said 'If I can get her the help that she needs, would you talk to the family?' and he agreed. Ironically, Teeba arrived one year to the day after I first read about her. She came with her grandmother because her mother had just had a baby."

"When Teeba got off the plane we both looked at each other and just started to cry," recounts Tim, Barbara's husband.

Barbara recalls the day she met Teeba at the airport. "When I first saw her, I didn't see the scars, and I looked at her, and I thought you are just so beautiful and precious," she says.

Barbara and Tim arranged for Teeba to meet with Dr. Arun Gosain to talk about her surgeries. During his meeting with the child, Dr. Gosain asked her to move her head in a variety of ways.

"The major issues that she's pointed out that are bothering her are, of course, her neck range of motion," he says. "She feels a little tight."

Dr. Gosain invites Teeba to ask whatever questions she likes, and through a translator she wonders if her face will be beautiful.

"It will take a lot of surgery," the doctor replies with candor, "but certainly each time we do surgery we're going to try to make her more beautiful than she already is."

Barbara recounts that their next appointment was at Wigs for Kids, where they fitted her for a wig, and she and Teeba chose a color. "All she wanted was a wig so the kids wouldn't make fun of her when she went to school," says Barbara.

As little Teeba takes her wig off and puts it back on, Barbara exclaims, "Ah, Beautiful! You're beautiful with your wig and without your wig, you know that? Come here." She embraces the child.

Barbara explains that Teeba has had five surgeries so far and will need tissue expanders done three more times. Tissue expansion will provide the doctors with additional skin to put on her face.

Tim says of Teeba, "If we have a new friend over, she'll say to them, 'Did you notice I got my face? I got burned in Iraq,' and that the balloon on her neck, 'This is my new skin. We're going to put it on my face.'"

"Sometimes people will look at her, and she'll say, 'Don't be afraid. I was just burned,'" says Barbara. "We encourage her every day by telling her her new skin is beautiful. We rub it. We touch it. You can just see the gratitude in her eyes."

Barbara notes that Teeba's English has become fluent over just a couple of months. By way of example, Teeba thrusts one tiny cheek forward and says, "Mommy, why don't you give me sugar?"

"Oh," says Barbara with a kiss. "I'll give you sugar."

"If you talked to her and looked at her, you would swear that she hasn't had any bad experiences," says Tim. "She's just like any other 6-year-old girl."

"She's starting swimming lessons," says Barbara. "She has made friends. She loves the snow."

"We didn't know a little 6-year-old was going to come in and steal our hearts and captivate our day and our time," says Tim. "It was a love affair that started early and just never ended."

Barbara adds that they express their love for one another verbally.

"You're my girl, huh?" she says to Teeba.

"You're my mom," she says back.

"She looks like she's just the happiest, most vibrant child in the world," Dr. Phil says of Teeba. He praises the couple for giving her such a soft place to fall.
"Most people don't even know she's from Iraq," says Barbara. "She has really absorbed American culture. And she's very loving, and she's very giving, and she shares. She's just been the highlight of our life, and I really think that we are getting more out of it, almost, than she is."
Dr. Phil asks Tim, "Was this a difficult decision for you at the time? Did you wrestle with it and think about what am I getting into here?"
"We are now just taking it one day at a time," he says. "We're trying to look at getting her through the first surgery, and just making each day as happy as we can for all of us."
Dr. Ordon has spoken with Teeba's pediatric plastic surgeon, Dr. Gosain, at the Rainbow Children and Babies Hospital in Cleveland. "What's in the future?" asks Dr. Phil.
"They're in great hands," he says. "This is a plastic surgeon who has dedicated his life to helping kids. You see this thing in this child's neck, and you think that it's some tumor growing there, but it's a device like this that has been slowly inflated like a balloon over time to stretch the skin."
Pointing out that Barbara and Tim haven't asked to talk about the money involved in supporting Teeba, Dr. Phil says, "There are a lot of funds that are going to be important for her future in terms of education and things of that nature, correct?"
"Absolutely," says Barbara. "In addition to the plastic surgery, she needs to have her ears reconstructed, she has a nostril problem."

Dr. Phil invites Teeba to come out and join the conversation, and when she approaches the group, Barbara sweeps her up and says, "My little monkey."

Dr. Phil introduces himself to Teeba and asks how she learned English so fast.

"I don't know," she says with a shrug.

"Just kind of did, huh?" says Dr. Phil with a chuckle. "And what other language do you speak?"

"I'm trying to learn Spanish," she says.

Dr. Phil says he heard that Teeba likes Barbie dolls. "Well, I actually called Barbie. Did you know that?" he asks the child. "And she sent me a letter, that I have right here," he says, extracting a hot pink envelope from behind his seat.

Teeba looks it over. "I can't read it but " "

"I know, but I'm going to read it," says Dr. Phil. "You see your name right there? It says 'Hey, Teeba. You are such a brave little girl. Thanks for being so special. I hope you love all of these fun presents. They're my favorites.' And it's signed 'Barbie,' right there. What do you think of that?"

"Can you believe it?" asks Barbara.

"And look here," says Dr. Phil, gesturing to a couple of wagons full of toys as they are carted out. "We've got some presents for you, OK?"

"Oh, my God. Look at all this!" Barbara exclaims.

Dr. Phil invites Teeba to take a closer look. "What do you think? You think you might want to take that home with you?" Looking over the loot with awe, the girl nods. "And look over here. Look at all of this Barbie stuff over here." Dr. Phil chooses a package from the display. "This is something that I have no understanding of," he says lightheartedly.

Among the stash are two dolls from American Girl. "One of them is in a karate outfit because you like karate, don't you?" Dr. Phil explains. "Now, there's something else that you don't know about either. It's called a Barbie Jammin' Jeep." As he speaks, a young woman drives a child-sized pink Jeep onto the scene.

"You can drive that back to Cleveland!" says Dr. Stork.

"I can't," says Teeba earnestly. "I have to go on an airplane."

"Very good!" says Barbara with a laugh.

Dr. Phil tells Teeba that she also has a date for dinner with Ariel and some of her Princess friends at Disneyland tonight.

"And, of course, we didn't want to forget Barbara and Tim," says Dr. Phil. "We are going to give you guys, just the three of you, six days and five nights all-inclusive vacation to Azule Beach by Karisma on the Riviera Maya, Mexico. They offer excellent in-room amenities and contemporary accommodations overlooking the ocean, and they have kid-friendly activities, so thanks, Karisma Hotels."

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