Zainab Jabbar, 11, of Baghdad holds flower petals in the backyard of her temporary home in Clifton, where she and her mother are staying with a local family while she receives care for severe scoliosis, a debilitating curvature of the spine.

The mood is tense. Zainab Jabbar, an 11-year old with severe scoliosis, a debilitating curvature of the spine, lies in a stretcher just minutes away from life-changing surgery.

Her mother, Azhar, sits next to her, as she has for weeks, ever since Zainab entered St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson. She sits stiffly, her face raw with tears. Sometimes she leans in to her daughter to comfort the girl, and likely herself. It’s hard for Azhar to relax. She has waited more than a decade and brought her daughter here from their home in Baghdad for this operation.

Zainab’s father calls their cellphone from Iraq. He tells his daughter that he is too nervous to eat. She tells him not to worry, that Mom will cook for them all when they come home.

Zainab’s mischievous personality is all that lightens the mood. When she wins a hand of Uno, the card game, she smiles and points under her bed sheets, saying, “I got cards over here.”

Born with severe scoliosis, Zainab leans severely to her left side. Her shoulders are lopsided and, on an X-ray, her spine looks like a meandering river winding up her back. She tires easily and can walk only short distances because her spine curves into her right lung, impeding her breathing. Without surgery, she likely would have lost function in her legs, doctors at St. Joseph’s say.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.