Father of 3-Year-Old Awaiting Heart Transplant Faces Deportation

Father of 3-Year-Old Awaiting Heart Transplant Faces Deportation

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DEARBORN, Mich.--Like most proud fathers, Amin Alhawati has a penchant for pointing out all of the little things that make his son unique and special.

Three-year-old Ahmed is more outgoing than most other kids his age and is known for his enthusiastic greetings and hugs, even when total strangers come by for a visit.

But there's something else about Ahmed Alhawati that's even more unique in a completely different way: his medical condition.

Beginning the minute he was born, when surgeons rushed him away to operate on him, Ahmed has been subject to numerous surgeries and medical procedures for his hypoplastic (underdeveloped) left heart in a constant fight to save his life. He has been described as having "half a heart" and it unfortunately hasn't grown along with him as he has gotten older.

Now, the fight is taking on a new dimension as his father Amin is desperately hoping to avoid a potential deportation back to his native Yemen that could threaten Ahmed's life again.

While doctors originally had recommended to Amin that he should simply let his son die peacefully shortly after his birth because of a grim outlook, his strong Islamic faith aided him in the decision to continue working to keep his son alive.

Lately, hope has begun to spring up again for the Alhawati family. Doctors are now waiting for the go-ahead to transplant a new heart and two lungs that could be the live-saving operation Ahmed needs. They expect that he will be ready sometime around age five although the time could come sooner.

Amin Alhawati, age 42, has the insurance to cover it and all of his current medical treatments, and his main goal for the time being is to make sure he stays around long enough to see the surgery become a reality.

"I just need to stay until gets better, then we can travel home if that's what they want us to do," he said. "That's all I need."

Alhawati is looking to gain legal status so he can stay in America until the surgery is completed, because if he is forced to go back to Yemen, the prospects for Ahmed's survival are grim.

Without the skilled surgeons that the United States offers, Alhawati fears the worst will happen to his son if he is forced to go back to Yemen.

While Ahmed and his three siblings were born in the United States and are citizens, Amin is their lifeline, especially for Ahmed because of his insurance. Ahmed also is unable to travel at high altitudes because of his medical condition.

According to Amin, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is cooperating with him but hasn't given him any updates recently on his current status. Alhawati hopes that he can hear from them about the status of his case because he fears that he could be deported at any time.

"It's really about peace of mind in this case, that's really what the family is looking for," said Haroon Mihtar, a family friend.

"This is the kind of thing that keeps people up at nights, and that's where the greatest fear is, that he could be deported any day now without any warning."

In the meantime, Amin, who came to America in 1995 and lives in Dearborn, is in need of a lawyer specializing in immigration cases to help him in his quest to stay in the U.S. long enough to see his son's surgery completed.

Ahmed has already undergone three heart surgeries and the transplant would be the culmination of years of hospital visits and hard work from Amin and the rest of the family in helping to prepare him for his eventual transplant.

The Alhawati family is hoping that a congressman or other dignitary can take note of the case and push for a resolution to finally give them the peace of mind they've been seeking.

Mihtar has started a petition aimed at getting the attention of Michigan's U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin along with two of Michigan's U.S. Representatives, John Conyers and John Dingell.

So far the petition has reached 592 signatures and the hope for Mihtar is that it can be presented as physical support for the Alhawatis in their case to politicians and USCIS representatives. The petition, which was created on the website Change.org, can be viewed and signed at: www.change.org/petitions/view/save_the_little_heart_of_ahmed

Meanwhile in Dearborn, young Ahmed continues to live his life in as carefree a manner as he possibly can despite being tethered to a breathing machine with tubes in his nose most of the time.

Amin said he lets Ahmed play with his siblings without the tubes every now and then, but the fun eventually comes to a halt.

"Sometimes we let him play without the breathing machine, but he needs it; he'll run up and down the stairs and have a great time but he gets tired easily and then he has trouble breathing."

There's no guarantee that his impending transplant will fix all of Ahmed's health problems, but the hope is that it will give him a second chance to live the type of full life that didn't seem possible just a few short years ago, and the one that every child deserves.

Those who believe they can help, especially in the field of immigration law, can reach Amin Alhawati at leenaream@yahoo.com.