Iraqi man in Springfield for life-saving ear surgery


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Being there for someone when they need it most. A man from Springfield who does volunteer work in Iraq is helping save his interpreter’s life. Dlo Yaseen needs to get surgery in his right ear. But, it couldn’t happen in his country. Ozarks First reporter David Chasanov met with Yaseen and Hayes.

What might be a loud sound to many is much quieter to Yaseen, who started getting ear infections when he was 8 years old.

“We were in Mosul, [Iraq], I remember my dad took me to the hospital,” Yaseen said. “I had some kind of infection. I got some medicine. Five years after that, it started again. Then when I was in high school, my teacher was explaining something and suddenly I couldn’t hear her. I lost hearing. I returned home and talked to my dad. I said, ‘I can’t hear well. My ear is bothering me.”

Yaseen went from doctor to doctor. In 2010, he had surgery on his left ear and started using a hearing aid. A couple of years later, he started working for the Free Burma Rangers (FBR). FBR is a non-profit that provides food and clothing to families stuck in a combat zone.

“Then, my right side got the same problem. The same infection. I felt kind of like I’m losing my other ear’s hearing and that is not good for me. Maybe I’m gonna lose my job. I won’t be able to help people. “

FBR is how Yaseen met Hayes. Hayes traveled from Springfield to Iraq to volunteer with the group. He says he noticed something was wrong with Yaseen’s right ear almost immediately.

“Sometimes in the morning he’s complaining,” Hayes said. “He sometimes might have a little bit of bleeding in that one ear and it hurt him, but not enough to stop him because his whole life is dedicated to helping refugees.”

Yaseen is almost entirely deaf in his right ear. Eventually, he got it checked out and learned he has an infection in the bones behind his ear.

“[The doctor] said ‘you have to do surgery,” Yaseen said. “Otherwise, you’re going to get a brain attack.”

“He’s going to actually have some of that bone behind his ear rebuilt up,” Hayes said. “The infection kind of gets in the bone and kind of eats away the bones. Part of your hearing is conductive hearing. So, it’s the vibrations that come through your ear. Those bones are right around your brain, and so if you get a severe ear infection, repeated ear infection, it develops a condition in the ear where the bone starts to disintegrate.”

Surgery wasn’t ideal for Yaseen since many surgeons left Iraq during the war. Yaseen figured he would talk to Hayes and see if he had options in America. Hayes received microscopic pictures of Yaseen’s ear and showed them to Dr. Van Ess at Mercy Hospital in Springfield.

“He goes, ‘I think I understand this condition he has,” Hayes said. “Yes, it needs to be addressed,” Hayes said. “ It can be progressive, and if he can get a visa I’ll help him.”

Dr. Van Ess, FBR and Hayes wrote a letter to the Department of State.

“We were shocked three weeks ago when we learned the State Department sent him an email,” Hayes said. “They said, ‘We’re giving you your visa. Three months. Very short window because he needs some follow-up appointments.”

Yaseen is now staying at Hayes’ house while he prepares for life-saving surgery in his right ear.

“Thanks God and thanks America and the Department of State for giving me the visa,” Yaseen said. “I’m here. It’s a great country. I’m so happy. I’m so excited to fix my ear. There are some great people and family like [Hayes]. I feel really excited. Thanks so much to Mercy Hospital for letting me get the surgery there. After my surgery, if my hearing returns, I’ll be able to help more people in the Middle East and all around the world.”

Yaseen is getting surgery today. It will take four months to know how much hearing he regains.

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