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November 22, 2012
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CHS students join cause to save Iraqi children

In a Skype call with Carson High School students on Wednesday, Cody Fisher told them how he ended up in Iraq after graduating from college in 2006. “I wanted to go mainly because I had this curiosity to experience a new culture and new way of life,” he said. “I felt it was a place we weren't getting the whole story on.”He told them how, through his work at a humanitarian organization where he taught classes at a local university, he met the family of a 2-year-old boy who was dying from a heart defect. The family asked for his help, so he asked around, trying to find a local surgeon who could help. He discovered a much larger problem. In just the city he was living in, 5,000 children suffered from life-threatening heart defects. While the global average is one in 115 children are born with a heart defect, it is one in 10 in Iraq.“That's just off the charts, crazy,” Fisher said. “It's unprecedented.”Although the exact cause is unknown, it can be traced to the long years of war the country has endured, leaving mothers malnourished, soil and air poisoned from chemicals and other materials used for destruction.And what's worse, Fisher said, doctors are not trained to fix the problem. “There's no one to help,” he said. So he quit the project he was involved in and helped start the Preemptive Love Coalition to provide heart surgery for Iraqi children.“We set out to save as many children as possible,” he said. While the organization started out sending children to countries where help was available, Fisher said they realized paying $18,000 per child was not a viable fix.“We were saving dozens of lives, but there were thousands more waiting,” he said. “We wanted to empower locals and create a long-term solution.”Now, the organization brings qualified medical teams to Iraq to perform the surgeries that, at the same time, train local doctors and nurses in the procedures. It costs $690 per child under this system.The ultimate goal, he said, is to have six hospitals operating as dedicated heart centers were the surgeries will be available. “That way, every child born with a heart defect will be within a two-hour drive of a heart center that can fix it,” Fisher said. “Our vision is that in the year 2020 we will have accomplished this.”Fisher video chatted with social studies students over Tuesday and Wednesday, appealing to them to get involved. Carson High School government teacher Will Houk, who organized the video conference, told students they could make a difference. “Over 500 of us have seen this presentation,” he said. “If each one of us brought a dollar, we're almost there. Many hands make the burden light.”Sophomore Alan Fitch, 15, said the presentation changed his outlook on his future.“I wanted something small out of life, just a job to get by,” Fitch said. “This inspired me to do something bigger, to become a better person.”Fisher said that through his work, he's seen the true nature of the Middle Eastern people, not the images of terrorists often shown on the news. “Some of our closest friends are these families and these kids we've helped,” he said. And, he hopes, he's helped to change their perceptions of Americans as well. “When someone you think of as your enemy saves the life of your child, it's hard to see them as your enemy,” Fisher said. “We love seeing these surgeries being used as a way to mend hearts, not just physically. Instead of waging war, we want to wage peace.”

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Nov 22, 2012 02:46AM Published Nov 22, 2012 02:44AM Copyright 2012 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.