Mustafa al-Nidawi is 5 years old now, learning English, and how to play nicely with his little brother, Maadh, who is a year younger. They were separated for almost two years and so were their parents, Kawther and Ghazwan, because the war in Iraq injured Mustafa. But they are all reunited now in San Francisco, thanks to many good Samaritans.
Mustafa survived a U.S. airstrike in June 2007.
"When the bomb hit our neighbor's house and Mustafa lost his hearing, we didn't notice it the same day, but his behavior changed," said Kawther.
Mustafa was barely 2 years old. The family went to Syria to get help without success. They couldn't find work, lived on their savings and some family support. It was a horrible time.
"And every day, me and Kawther choose the corner in the park, no one can see us and we are crying, me and my wife, because it's very hard to see other kids playing and talking, and your kid…nothing," said Ghazwan.
Ghazwan pleaded for help for his son, and got the attention of a Bay Area humanitarian organization, The Ruth Group. They could only afford to bring Mustafa and his father, so Mustafa could get the surgery he needed and it was difficult to get visas.
It meant that Mustafa's mother, Kawther, had to stay behind with her 1-year-old baby, Maahd, as bombs continued to fall in their town of Baqouba. She told her husband to take Mustafa for the surgery, even though she knew she might never see them again.
"It was really hard because I miss Ghazwan and Mustafa, but I don't want them to come back. I even told them, I never want them to come back. Just get asylum, even if they say your wife and other son cannot come here. It's OK. Just stay there," said Kawther.
Kawther eventually was able to get visas for herself and Maadh and the painful separation from her husband and older son is over.
Ghazwan and Mustafa lived at the Ronald McDonald House in San Francisco for several months, while the little boy was recovering from surgery. They still visit there regularly. It has become their second family.
ABC7 last saw Mustafa last year, when he was 4 years old, at the hearing and speech center of Northern California in San Francisco. He was trying to understand sounds again with one coclear implant in his right ear, as he was learning English.
This past summer, Mustafa had a coclear implant placed in his left ear.
"Speaking skills, Mustafa, he's very good now. We hope he be better because next year he will be in kindergarten," said Ghazwan.
Education is vitally important to this family. Kawther graduated in Iraq with a bachelor's degree in English.
Now she's working and going to school to get qualified as a special needs teacher in California. Ghazwan has a Ph.D. in media advertising and public relations, but can't find work in his field. So, he's attending English as second language classes, working at a coffee shop and driving his wife and kids to work and school, but they're grateful for what they have.
"I'm very happy here with my sons getting good education and living here in peace, without bombs," says Kawther.
As for the boys, Mustafa and his brother only have to worry about sibling rivalry now.
If you'd like to help, contact The Ruth Group or Ronald McDonald House. The family still has many needs, including a job and a reliable car.