Meet Teeba: 2020 Family Advocacy Week Champion

Teeba is participating in Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Week from August 10-14, 2020. Through this special event, Teeba and her family will share information about her health journey, University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital’s role in providing Teeba with necessary health care services, and why the public and our elected officials must invest in the future of kids like Teeba.

Teeba, an Iraqi citizen, was just 19 months old when an IED explosion left her severely burned with major damage and scarring to her face, neck, and hands.

Two years later, Barbara, a Cleveland resident, was reading a news article featuring Teeba about Iraqi children hurt in the war. Barbara was moved by Teeba’s story and knew she was in a position to help, so Barbara and her husband, Tim, began to untangle the bureaucratic red tape.

Dunia, Teeba’s biological mother, and Barbara agreed Teeba would come to America and live with Barbara and Tim while undergoing treatment. They were determined to do everything they could to bring Teeba to Cleveland.

“We knew and were committed to her care for her for the long haul,” says Barbara. “We loved her. Her family in Iraq loved her. We all wanted what was best for Teeba and ultimately for her future and her self-confidence."

It’s been a long process and it still isn’t over. Teeba, now 18, will undergo her 21st surgery in August. “If not for the incredible doctors at Rainbow Babies, children like me would not have a chance,” says Teeba.

For the reconstructive surgeries, she had to grow her own replacement skin using a tissue expansion process, which causes the skin to stretch and grow. This “extra skin” is then used in reconstructive surgery for other parts of the body.

Teeba says she felt loved by Barbara and Tim from day one and quickly acclimated to America. Barbara added that because of her injuries, life would have been difficult if she stayed in Iraq.

“In the beginning, she would tell people, ‘You don’t have to be afraid; I was just burned.’ We have instilled in her from the start not to have a victim mentality, but to realize that no one is perfect, everyone has flaws—seen and unseen,” says Barbara.

Today, Teeba is thriving. She is confident, enjoys public speaking, and maintains a 4.5 GPA. Teeba is also an accomplished writer and author of A Brave Face, which chronicles her life story. After high school, Teeba plans to attend medical school.

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