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News-Herald photographers share what they're capturing and give the stories behind the photos.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Teeba's Transformation by Maribeth Joeright

One of the most rewarding stories for me over the course of my career has been covering the journey of Teeba Furat Fadhil Marlowe. She was badly burned by a roadside bomb in 2003 in Iraq when she was just 19 months old. After seeing a photograph of Teeba in newspaper in 2006, Barbara and Tim Marlowe stopped at nothing to get Teeba here for treatment. One year later, Teeba arrived in the United States from Iraq in the summer of 2007 and took up residency with the Marlowes in their Concord Township home.

When I met Teeba, she was horribly scarred and painfully shy. But she was inquisitive. She stared at me as I started to photograph her. She spoke not a word because she did not know our language, only her native Arabic. But like young children, she learned English quickly. She attended Goddard School and took an interest in karate and gymnastics. She made friends easily, despite her obvious handicap.

Over the last five years Teeba has endured numerous reconstructive surgeries, 16 of them to be exact, at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland. More often than not, tissue expanders were part of her daily wardrobe, as noticeable as the bright colors she liked to wear. Teeba had to put up with stares from strangers and unwelcome questions about what happened to her. Even at her young age, Teeba handled the situation with grace. Barbara has always maintained that throughout her ordeal, she has never complained.

Teeba, now 10, will be in fourth grade at Andrews Osborne School in Willoughby. She is a gifted artist and passionate about fashion and international dance. She has close friends who love her as much as she loves them. Her shyness has dissipated just like most of her scars and what has emerged is an engaging, witty and confident young lady.

It's been amazing, watching Teeba's growth and transformation over these last five years and documenting her story through the lens of my camera. I've been inspired by her resilience and sense of humor through all her hardship -- she's endured more in her short life than many of us will in a lifetime. I'm grateful to Barbara and Tim for welcoming me into their home and into their lives from day one. They allowed me to be with them day and night, often during difficult and heart wrenching times. The selfless love of this couple is an example for all of us. The Marlowes and many others behind the scenes have altered the course of Teeba's life for the better. As a journalist, I love a good "making a difference" story.

Read about the latest update on Teeba.


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