Guess who fixed Kristi’s back? An Arab immigrant.
The Governor’s press release on her back injury, surgery, and projected recovery named Dr. Mohamad Bydon of the Mayo Clinic as her treating surgeon. Dr. Bydon (the sound of whose name had to give Noem some heartburn on the way into the OR) does neurosurgery and research at Mayo. Dr. Bydon did his undergraduate work at Dartmouth, med school at Yale, and residency at Johns Hopkins.
Bydon is also an Arab immigrant who grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, which Senator Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) famously and falsely said is ruled by Sharia law.
Fay Beydoun spoke of both the Bydons’ father and her uncle, the late Dr. Hussein Beydoun, who himself was well-known and loved in the community. The brothers grew up in Dearborn after immigrating from Lebanon with their family at a very young age. Ali attended Fordson High School while Mohamad attended Cranbrook Institute in Bloomfield Hills [Hassan Abbas, “Community Celebrates Two Doctors’ Profound Achievements in Medicine,” The Arab American News, 2020.02.19].
Mohamad’s brother and fellow neurosurgeon Ali doesn’t credit Sharia law as a guiding force in the Bydons’ upbringing. Ali does say immigrants know how to get stuff done:
Ali honed in on his Lebanese heritage, connecting his and others’ successes to make the case for how the immigrant experience of the Lebanese diaspora made it particularly suitable for professional success.
“The tendency of Lebanese immigrants to succeed has long been intriguing and written about extensively,” he said. “What is it about this small group of people who have a long track record of success, not just in this country but around the world? The answer in my opinion is multifactorial.”
Ali argued that the ability of many Lebanese to speak multiple languages helps foster creativity, leads to a unique sense of design and aesthetics and primes them for better cognitive wiring. He said that Lebanese immigrants rarely rest on their laurels and have a unique tenacity and determination, and stressful situations galvanize them towards success.
“The most successful Lebanese community in America is right here in this room,” Ali added. “That success is the story of us Dearbornites” [Abbas, 2020.02.19].
At Mayo Clinic, Chris was enrolled as patient No. 1 in the 10-patient clinical trial that’s testing the safety, side effects and ideal dosage of stem cells to help treat severe spinal cord injuries. The treatment remains experimental, and it is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration for large-scale use.
While early results show patient response varies greatly, for Chris the response was both immediate and life-changing. “I could feel it,” he says of the initial stem cell injection. “I absolutely felt something in my legs.”
Once those injected stem cells went to work on his injured spine, it wasn’t long before Chris began seeing improvement in his physical and occupational therapy test scores, including his 10-meter walk test, ambulation test, grip and pinch strength test, and manual dexterity tests. “Every single one of them improved by 25% to 50% for my upper extremities and 100% for my lower extremities,” Chris says. “Clearly, something happened.”
As Chris’ participation in the trial continued, so did his improvement. “The first time I started walking by myself, that was really something,” he says. His response to the treatment wasn’t remarkable for Chris alone, but for the team of researchers and care providers at Mayo Clinic who helped make it happen, as well. “To be able to see him stand up and walk toward me was really just an extraordinary feeling,” Dr. Bydon says. “I wanted all of the investigators in this space to see that” [Mayo Clinic, “New Hope for Regaining His Old Life After Being Paralyzed,” 2020.01.13].
Boy, Governor Noem got herself one heck of a doctor to fix her spine… and she got Dr. Bydon because America welcomes immigrants.
As Kristi Noem can attest, immigrants really are the backbone of American medicine and innovation.