PORTLAND, Ore. – Eight years ago, a little boy injured in the Iraq War touched the hearts of Oregonians. Now he's resurfaced, but not for the reasons so many people hoped for.
Mustafa Abed came to Portland in 2008, four years after shrapnel from an American missile strike tore through his body. He was 2 years old at the time. His bowel was severed, one kidney wasn’t working and he’d lost a leg. When he arrived in Portland, his condition was worse than expected.
A group called No More Victims worked tirelessly to get Mustafa medical treatment.
“He was dying,” said Ned Rosch with No More Victims. “The wonderful surgeons at Doernbecher saved his life.”
Watch: 2008 story on Mustafa Abed
After Mustafa was treated at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, he was fit with a custom-made prosthetic limb. Mustafa worked hard and learned how to use his new leg, giving him renewed hope of being able to live out his dream.
“It’s wonderful to see,” Rosch said in 2008. “And we’re so optimistic that will help him put some of the dream back together to become a soccer player.”
Oregon embraced Mustafa. He made headlines across the state and then-Portland Mayor Tom Potter even declared a day in November 2008 as Mustafa Abed Day.
Mustafa eventually returned to Iraq with his father, full of hope and promise that things would be better. No More Victims lost track of the boy that won the hearts of so many Oregonians.
Until last weekend.
Rosch was watching a PBS NewsHour story, which included a boy who had been taken to Oregon to be fitted with a prosthetic leg. Rosch immediately knew it was Mustafa.
“That’s Mustafa, you can recognize him by the way he walks,” Rosch said.
Watching the report, Rosch realized the dream of a better life for Mustafa, now 13 years old, wasn’t to be.
“This was absolutely shocking. This was someone we had fallen in love with. This is someone who entered our hearts,” Rosch said.
Iraqi fighters have retaken Fallujah, where Mustafa lived, from ISIS. The thousands of civilians ISIS held as human shields fled. Among them were Mustafa and his family. The PBS story describes Mustafa walking eight miles on crutches to get away. Now, he can’t get catheter tubes.
“What we saw in that PBS report is the conditions are dire,” Rosch said.
Now, Rosch is hoping to re-ignite the love and connection Oregonians had for the young boy eight years ago, to get him the care he needs.
“What we hope to do is meet his immediate medical needs. And there are many. He needs colostomy bags because of the severe internal injuries he received,” Rosch said.
The Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, a nonprofit, has set up a fund for Mustafa on its website.