Marietta doc helps Iraqi boy

Dr. Goodman B. Espy III sits in a small cluttered office near Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, planning his next house call.

In Iraq.

Espy, a 75-year-old obstetrician and gynecologist, has been there before, for a couple of reasons. He is working to establish a breast cancer prevention center and, in mid-2009, he paid all expenses to fly to the U.S. an Iraqi boy who needed surgery to repair a crippling leg injury.

The child, Mohammad “Babou” Mustafa, 9, recently left for Iraq, with his father, Abdulqadr, whom Espy paid a “salary” of $1,000 a month for the 16 months they were here.

Espy arranged for Babou to be operated on by Dr. William Terrell of Pinnacle Orthopedics in Marietta, and convinced leaders at WellStar Health System to provide services for the youngster.

Babou underwent five operations at Kennestone, and likely will have to return for at least one more, said Espy, who figures he’s spent tens of thousands of dollars out of his own pocket to help Babou.

Terrell, whom Espy says “is the real hero in this,” lengthened Babou’s left leg that had been stunted by infection and was five inches shorter than his right one. Babou can walk almost normally now “in four inch elevator shoes,” Espy said.

Espy also arranged for the First Baptist Church of Woodstock to provide free housing to Babou and his dad, and for the lad to attend public school in that Cherokee County town.

Others have helped, too, including Espy’s church, Wieuca Road Baptist.

Just recently, Espy hired a driver to take Babou and his father to Dallas for the wedding of Heather Mercer, a missionary who was arrested by the Taliban in Afghanistan in August 2001 for proselytizing and later rescued by U.S. troops.

Babou was her ring bearer.

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Mercer moved there, where she heard about Babou. She knew Espy, who, coincidentally, had been planning a humanitarian mission to Iraq, and first saw Babou in the spring of 2008.

“The doctor there was going to cut his leg off at the hip,” Espy said. “Babou most surely in my mind would have died, so I started trying to see how we could get him to Georgia and help him here.”

Now Espy is trying to set up a breast cancer center for women because the disease is unusually common there. He plans house calls to Babou in February and again a few months later.

Espy has previously been involved in helping kids who needed doctoring during the war in the Balkans in the late 1990s. He delivered babies there and later in Haiti, and figures he’s brought about 12,000 souls into the world in his 48 years as a doctor.

Why does he spend so much time and money on such efforts?

“I ask myself why I do not do more,” he said. “I get more out of these opportunities than those I may help. As an American who’s been blessed, I think we owe a debt to the world to help those who are not as fortunate.”

He says he may even move to Iraq one day to devote all his energies to helping the unfortunate there.

Do you know a "hero" in your community? Let Bill Hendrick know about it by sending him an email at bill@hendrick.com.

Hendrick bio

Bill Hendrick wrote for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 29 years, covering business, health and science and general interest stories. Before joining the AJC, he worked eight years for The Associated Press where his reporting assignments have taken him around the world and to almost every state. Besides the AJC, he contributes to WebMD. He has two grown sons and lives in east Cobb County with his wife Laura.