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Emergency forces Bosnian baby to get lifesaving surgery in Atlanta
ATLANTA (AP)--A baby born with a congenital heart defect in war-torn Bosnia will undergo surgery in Atlanta because she was too sick to continue on to Michigan, where the operation was originally scheduled. aclepsa.com

Five-week-old Azra Beso received emergency treatment Sunday on the tarmac at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport after she went into severe respiratory distress on a Delta flight.

The flight had stopped in Atlanta for a change of planes before continuing to Michigan, where Azra was scheduled to undergo lifesaving surgery at Ann Arbor Medical Center.

Now, she is to have the surgery within the next two weeks at Egleston Children's Hospital.

The air pressure of Sunday's flight, coupled with a blood infection, caused the child to have severe respiratory distress. A nurse accompanying the baby and her mother called for emergency assistance.

Cardiac specialist Dr. W. James Parks and an emergency mobile neonatal intensive care unit came to the infant's aid at the airport, stabilizing Azra with oxygen before rushing her to Egleston.

"She was basically turning blue," said Karin Koser, a spokeswoman for the Atlanta children's hospital. "We were able to quickly turn around and say, 'We can take the baby.'"

The two major vessels that carry blood away from Azra's heart are reversed, which is a common birth defect. In the United States the defect is normally corrected within the first week of life, said Jeremy Blume, a spokesman for Samaritan's Purse, a North Carolina-based relief organization that organized the trip.

But in Bosnia, "physicians have fled and hospitals have been damaged. The children can't get the medical care they need," he said.

The journey to the United States had been touch-and-go even before the emergency in Atlanta.

Because of NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia, no planes were flying out of the Sarajevo airport. So the baby, her mother, a translator and a nurse had to drive eight hours to Croatia. They then took a small plane to Vienna and caught their Delta flight.

Samaritan's Purse, headed by Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham, has brought 42 Bosnian babies with congenital heart defects to North America for surgery.

Azra and her mother will stay in Atlanta with a host family through June. Egleston is performing the surgery for free.

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