Injured toddler’s future waits on Trump travel policy


(CNN)Severe burns disfigured the toddler’s face. Scars are scattered under little Dilbireen Muhsin’s chin.

In Kurdish, the young Yazidi boy’s name means “wounded heart.” Yet 2-year-old Dilbireen, affectionately called Dili, remains cheerful and self-sufficient. He enjoys cuddling with his blanket and playing peek-a-boo, and he exhibits more independence than many other children his age — from feeding himself to brushing his own teeth.
This might be because he has been without his mother for so long, said Dilbireen’s caretaker, Adlay Kejjan, in an exclusive interview with CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
    Dilbireen arrived in the United States last year to receive medical treatment for severe burns after a fire in his home in a refugee camp. While he now lives with a family in Lansing, Michigan,his parents and baby brother are in their native country, Iraq. They’re making efforts to be by Dilbireen’s side in the United States, but their travel visas were revoked in early January.
    President Donald Trump’s travel ban now has them concerned that they won’t be able to get back to Dilbireenand that he might return to Iraq without additional surgeries to improve the function of his face.


    Dilbireen was due to have another surgery in Boston on January 25, but Becker said the appointment was canceled because “it would be too cruel” to go forward without the emotional support that a toddler needs from his parents.
    “When their visas were refused, Trump wasn’t in office, but whatever happens on Sunday is basically down to him. Following his announcement, everything has changed, so we really don’t know what will happen,” Becker said.
    “Dilbireen’s case is unique, so I’m hoping that their visas will be approved on compassionate grounds,” she said. “If the visas are refused, it would mean that I would have to take that little boy back to Iraq (without treatment), and I can’t bear the thought.”

    ‘He realizes there’s something different about him’

    As Dilbireen’s parents wait — not knowing when they will see their son again — the growing toddler is adjusting to life in Michigan, Kejjan said.
    “If he was older, he would definitely say, ‘I want my parents, my mom and dad.’ He’s so young, and he doesn’t understand,” said Kejjan, who serves as an advocate for the Yazidi community.
    Kejjan, a paramedic and pilot, is also a Yazidi refugee and became an American citizen in 2006. She was asked to care for Dilbireen because she is a member of the Yazidi community and had offered to volunteer with Road to Peace in the past.
    Kejjan initially took time away from her career to care for Dilbireen but has has since returned to work. She said that her sister-in-law cares for Dilbireen in the afternoons and that he spends time around her nieces, nephews and other children.
    Kejjan said she thinks Dilbireen has become more aware of the scars that not only shape his face but shape his character.
    “When he plays with kids, he like touches their eyes and nose. He realizes there’s something different about him, and it’s really, really sad, because these kids, they run away. … They’re always scared of him,” Kejjan said. “When he’s trying to touch their eyes and nose, he knows they’re like, ‘OK, what’s going on?’ “
    Though Ajeel can’t be there for his son now, he said he is hopeful his family soon will be reunited.
    In a message to his son, Ajeel said, “I am hopeful that we will come soon. Finish all your operations. After that, we will return to Iraq. We love you. Kisses.”

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    Becker, the founder of Road to Peace, said she has identified about 87 other children in Iraq who need specialized medical attention, similar to Dilbireen.
    “Dilbireen is an amazing little boy, and I really, really hope that the US government will realize how important it is for this child to be reunited with his parents and get the surgery he needs, but I also want people to bear in mind that there are hundreds of other children in desperate need of help,” Becker said.
    “Shriners has kindly said that they would treat as many of the children as they can with no payment, but of course it depends on visa approvals. … I’m also hoping that other countries might step in to help,” she said.

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