Toronto

Canadian in U.S. raises funds for Iranian baby needing heart surgery

A Canadian living in the U.S. is raising money for a four-month-old Iranian girl who has received a waiver to enter the U.S. for life-saving heart surgery.

'Everything is just about timing and urgency,' says Gule Sheikh

Iranian doctors have told the parents of four-month-old Fatemeh Reshad she needs at least one urgent surgery, and maybe several, to correct serious heart defects, or she will die, according to her uncle.

A Canadian living in the U.S. is raising money for a four-month-old Iranian girl who has received a waiver to enter the U.S. for life-saving heart surgery.

"I saw the story online and I basically was very touched and heartbroken for this little baby," Gule Sheikh, who lives in Chicago, said this week.

"I started reaching out to multiple people to see what could be done to potentially get her her surgery."

Diagnosed 2 weeks ago

The family of Fatemeh Reshad had been barred from entering the U.S. because of President Donald Trump's recent 90-day travel ban. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, however, said on Friday the family will be allowed to travel to the U.S. for the surgery.

Fatemah was diagnosed just weeks ago with a serious heart condition. Her family was concerned with the idea of her having open-heart surgery in Iran because the success rate is low.

They had booked an appointment at a health facility in Oregon to have assessments done and had filled out all the required paperwork. But when the family arrived in Dubai en route to the U.S., to obtain a tourist visa, they were denied entry because of Trump's executive order.

Manhattan's Mount Sinai Medical Center had offered to perform the critical surgery, but the family chose to do it in Portland because of the hospital's pediatric cardiology expertise and proximity to the baby's uncle and grandparents, who live in Oregon.

It's 'a big struggle' for the family

Sheikh, before the waiver was announced, created a GoFundMe page for the little girl, and someone soon put her in touch with the lawyer representing the family.

Gule Sheikh, a Canadian living in the U.S., is raising funds for a four-month-old Iranian girl who has received a waiver to enter the U.S. for life-saving heart surgery.

"I said that being a Canadian, I think there may be opportunities in Canada for this little girl to get her surgery," she said.

Sheikh made a few phone calls, Global Affairs Canada opened a file and said officials would look into the case.

Sheikh said it's been "a big struggle" for the family but the money will help to cover travel expenses, housing during the operations and appointments, procedure costs, and recovery time. So far, the page has raised $2,600. 

When she found out about the waiver, Sheikh said she was thrilled.

"Another amazing news!" Sheikh wrote on the GoFundMe page. "Fatemah has received a waiver to enter US to get surgery in NY!! Your donations will continue to help the family. Thanks to all that have given." 

Sheikh said Canadians have been generous.

"I was just surprised at how quickly people were coming through, especially in Canada. I would say it's about 90 per cent Canadians who have donated money," she said.

"This says Canada is coming through trying to help out in any way they can."

On Friday, Ontario's health minister Eric Hoskins said the province would provide life-saving care to children whose surgeries have been cancelled in the United States as a result recent travel restrictions.