Who would’ve thought Attorney at Law Magazine’s last feature article on our incredible story entitled, “A Brave New Face” would come eerily close to the name of our new book A Brave Face. Publisher Harper Collins heard about our journey and felt there were so many elements that crossed not only cultural borders, but religious, political and spiritual that it was a story that must be shared.
Our book was written in three voices, Teeba’s, mine and her mother Dunia in Iraq. It is powerful, emotional and truly a labor of love. You can feel the raw emotion in her words. The words were left exactly as she said them, not edited for ease of flow. Our stories that we shared seem so surreal and almost hard to believe, but every moment is exactly as written.
As I look back, I know God’s hand touched our families with grace and promise. I learned very early on that looking at a daunting situation with a big picture eye is not necessarily the proper approach. I believe that looking at something that may at first seem overwhelming through smaller increments of time is much more productive. I never looked further out than a few weeks and I got great tremendous joy in crossing items off on my endless lists or taking down sticky note after sticky note once that task was completed. And wouldn’t you know it, the big picture became manageable even with 14 years of surgeries, conflicts in the Middle East, family tragedies and joy, as well as navigating life’s ups and downs.
The last 5 years have brought all kinds of shifts and transformations. There were a few additional surgeries – now totaling 23 – such as laser resurfacing and a nose reconstruction to help open up her airways/nostrils. Both were again, very successful. I am filled with gratitude and thanks to Dr. Anand Kumar at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital and Dr. Arun Gosain who now resides in Chicago.
Teeba is the first in her family to drive a car, graduate high school and now begin her college careers, both undergraduate and soon-to-be medical. Much to our extreme sadness, my husband and I tried to facilitate Teeba’s Iraqi mother being able to come to NE Ohio and witness this very important milestone. Unfortunately, the U.S. Consulate in Erbil, Iraq will not even schedule a Zoom appointment for her tourist visa because of Covid. It truly breaks my heart as I know Teeba would have loved to have both her mothers together again for this big moment.
However, she is stepping into the world now well prepared. Teeba has had the opportunity to see first hand how giving back makes an impact on community and people. Patrick Perotti, Senior Partner at Dworken & Bernstein and the founder of Ohio Lawyers Give Back has enlisted her help over the years by volunteering to be a check presenter at various cy pres distributions. She has had the chance to learn about the charities and non-profits in Northeast Ohio as well as the people that are served first hand. Her experience with Dworken & Bernstein gave her the tools to volunteer on a committee for United Way (for her school’s service hours) to learn about different charities in our area and offer recommendations as to which ones should receive funding from a special grant.
Patrick has often said that with her award-winning writing skills, her ability to speak in front of thousands of people with ease and with her intense talent in debate and “arguing her point” she’d make an outstanding attorney. “Teeba is no shrinking violet and has on several occasions, debated me on various topics which has propelled me to do further research and hone my argument skills,” laughed Patrick. “She’s an excellent researcher.”
But her true passion is the medical field where she spent a summer volunteering at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital working on the pediatric oncology floor. Teeba feels that with her history of so many surgeries and interacting with so many doctors and nurses, she would be well equipped to relate to the concerns and fears of the children. Her goal one day is to help set up a free clinic in her native country.
Over the years, Teeba has served as Honorary Youth Ambassador to the Iraqi Children Foundation based in Washington D.C. The foundation intervenes with love and hope in the lives of Iraqi children who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect and exploitation by criminals, traffickers and extremists. Before heading off to college in the fall, she will be spending three weeks as an intern to the Iraqi Ambassador, Fareed Yasseen in Washington D.C. Teeba is pretty excited about what she will see, learn and who she will meet.
Teeba once said to me many years ago, “Mom, I’m so glad I was burned. I wouldn’t be getting to do all the things I’m do now in America.” So, as she heads out to make her mark on the world, I am also glad. Glad that her Iraqi parents gave the permission for her to come to the United States to begin the healing process and start a new life filled with opportunities; glad University Hospital’s Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital took such outstanding care of her, and us, over the years; glad the United States welcomed her with open arms; and glad I’ve been surrounded by loving family members and friends who have embraced our commitment to helping Teeba become the young extraordinary woman she has become.
If we all helped just one person somewhere in the world, imagine how paying that help forward would create a more idyllic planet.