Iraqi child, 8, welcomed
by Anna C. Irwin
of The Daily Times Staff
An 8-year-old Iraqi girl, her huge brown eyes wide with wonder, was greeted at McGhee Tyson Airport Friday night by many of those responsible for bringing her to East Tennessee for medical treatment.
Gufran Alayass and her father, Abdul, spent several weeks in Jordan after leaving Iraq, then traveled more than 6,400 miles from Amman, Jordan, to New York's Kennedy Airport, by ground to La Guardia Airport, then back in the air to McGhee Tyson.
The Delta flight was ahead of schedule and several members of Maryville's First United Methodist Church did not reach the arrival area in time to join in the applause that welcomed the little girl and her father.
Eight-year-old Samantha Ousley, the daughter of WIVK Radio personality Gunner and his wife, Laura, gave Gufran a teddy bear, and a second cuddly bear was provided by First Methodist co-pastor Brenda Carroll. More than two dozen church members were in the welcoming party, which also included two interpreters, Dr. Rick Glover and his wife and other well-wishers.
Members of the 278th Regimental Combat Team stationed near the Alayass home in Iraq initiated the effort to bring the little girl to the United States for treatment of spina bifida, a birth defect which has crippled her. The Maryville church provided funds to bring her here. Gufran and her father will stay with Gunner and his family while she is treated at Children's Hospital in Knoxville.
Her hospital treatment is being provided through the Faith Welch Fund established in memory of a child from Belize who underwent surgery at Children's Hospital four years ago but did not survive. Surgeons who will try to help Gufran are donating their services.
Glover, a pediatrician who is coordinating Gufran's medical care, said the visitors would rest from their long journey before the little girl's condition is evaluated and a treatment plan developed.