Iraqi girl keeps her bounce after surgery

Swatting at a yellow balloon and giggling as it bounces off her interpreter’s nose, Salee Allawe hardly presents the picture of a 9-year-old who’s just had surgery after losing her legs in a U.S. air strike that killed her brother a few months ago in Iraq.

“She’s happy and excited,” Lora Alakhwan, an 18-year-old Greenville woman who’s translating for Salee and her father, Hussein, while they’re here for medical care, said Thursday. “She knows it’s a step toward becoming much better.”

Tuesday’s two-hour operation removed a portion of the stump on Salee’s left leg so that it is even with the right leg, said Selena Frank, a member of the Upstate Coalition of Compassion. That will make it easier for her to be fitted with prosthetic legs eventually.

The Coalition, in conjunction with a group called No More Victims, raised money to bring Salee to Greenville for the treatment that will help her walk again one day. Treatment is being provided free by the Shriners Hospital for Children, which specializes in the kind of care she needs.

“She asked if there were going to be any more surgeries, because in Iraq, they had to keep doing more,” said Frank. “Here they do it all at one time. And she was so excited.”

An hour and a half after surgery, Frank said, the brave little girl was in her wheelchair ready to play. And as she swatted the balloon back at the laughing Salee, Alakhwan could hardly believe her courage.

“She told me, ‘It hurts a little bit, but I’m fine,’ ” she said. “She’s a trouper.”

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