College of


Saving Mohammed - Big Ten Network Documentary

September 22, 2010

Editor's Note: College of Human EDWARD LANIGANMedicine Department of Surgery's Dr. Edward Lanigan provided free services and lead a reconstructive surgery team from Sparrow for Iraqi teen Mohammed. The Big Ten Network will air a documentary on Mohammed's life-changing year in Michigan.

September 23     12:00 p.m.  MSU Today: Mohammed

September 24     3:00 a.m.    MSU Today In Studio: Mohammed

September 30     12:00 p.m.   MSU Today Show 21/ MSU Today: Mohammed

October 1           3:00 a.m.     MSU Today In Studio: Terrie Taylor / MSU Today: Mohammed


About Mohammed's Journey

Mohammed Big Ten Network VIDEO November 2009


Mohammed Big Ten Network VIDEO April 2010 

After Life-changing year in Michigan, Iraqi teen returning home

April 2010

By Jason Cody


After a yearlong journey filled with new friends, trips to the ballpark, his first Halloween and numerous medical procedures, a 13-year-old Iraqi boy is leaving mid-Michigan and returning home to his family with a new outlook on life.

Mohammed - thanks to the efforts of a Michigan Army National Guard major, a Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Department of Surgery doctor and Lansing's Sparrow Hospital - will be reuniting with his mother and siblings with a surgically repaired scalp, new movement in his left hand and an abundance of memories from his 12 months in Michigan.

Mohammed was honored April 21 at a ceremony at the Michigan Army National Guard headquarters, 3411 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Lansing.  

"His family is anxiously waiting to see him and see how everything has turned out,'" said Army National Guard Maj. David Howell, who met Mohammed in Iraq and brought him to America. "He talks with his mother, brothers and sisters on the phone every 10 days or so, and he really misses them."

The Iraqi teen, who underwent five surgeries and weekly medical appointments since April 2009, was severely injured by an exploding oil lamp when he was a few months old. He was badly burned along the left side of his head, face and body, and has lost most movement in his left hand. He never received proper medical treatment.

Medical efforts were led by Edward Lanigan, a surgeon with MSU's College of Human Medicine who works at Sparrow and is offering his services for free.

"It has meant the world to me to help a genuine hero such as Mohammed," said Lanigan, who noted his family's strong military ties further strengthened his desire to help. "Mohammed is such a lovable child; you just want to help him so much. He's got a personality and smile that just shines across the room."

Lanigan and his team inserted tissue expanders into Mohammed's scalp, repaired his left hand and performed plastic surgery along the left side of the boy's face and head. Also while here, Mohammed had eight cavities filled and a tooth capped thanks to Jackson Pediatric Dentistry and was fitted with eyeglasses by Optometrists of Lansing to improve his vision tenfold. Since coming to Michigan, Mohammed has gained 26 pounds and grew three inches.

The story began in November 2008 when Howell, while on duty in Ramadi, spotted Mohammed with his mother. Howell eventually learned of the boy's story of being burned and how his father was slain by insurgents after they discovered he was working as an interpreter for American forces.

Howell worked with American and Iraqi officials to bring Mohammed to mid-Michigan, where he stayed with the Najis and Saeeds, host families Howell found through the Islamic Center of East Lansing, where Mohammed continued his education at the Greater Lansing Islamic School.

The Iraqi teen continued his love for soccer while in Michigan and found a new team to root for: the Detroit Tigers. When a group of Tigers were in Lansing earlier this year for a promotional visit to the Capitol, Mohammed was able to join them.

"He got the chance to hang out with many of the players and coaches then," Howell said. "We went to several games as well, and he got to meet Justin Verlander, Curtis Granderson and Al Kaline."

While he embraced the Tigers, school was a challenge.

"In Iraq he only attended school three hours a day, so going all day was a little tough for him at times," Howell said. "He loved science and math, and the teachers at the Islamic Center put in extra time with him and were very patient with his reading and English assignments."

To help cover Mohammed's costs, Howell set up a nonprofit organization called Martyr Medical Fund for Children, which provides humanitarian medical assistance and treatment to the children of Iraqi interpreters killed in the line of duty. Also, Howell has worked with the Islamic community in Dearborn to raise funds and plans to provide long-term assistance to Mohammed's family.


Mohammed capitol

During a Detroit Tigers 
promotional visit to 
the state Capitol in 
Lansing, Mohammed 
was able to mingle 
with players and 
take a tour of the 
complex. Photo courtesy 
of Maj. David Howell.

Mohammed sendoff1

Mohammed, flanked by Maj. 
David Howell on the left 
and MSU Department 
of Surgery's Charles Thomas 
on the right, is seen April 21 
during a send-off ceremony at the 
National Guard headquarters 
in Lansing. Photo by G.L. Kohuth.