City STAR

Fardowza Omar, project coordinator
Lead Hazard Unit, Health Department

Director of Environmental Health Daniel Huff nominated Omar for going above and beyond the call of duty to protect a child with severe lead poisoning and support the child’s family:

“Omar, a lead risk assessor, received a call from the Minnesota Department of Health about a child with a blood lead level of 40 ug/dcl (a child with a blood lead level of 5ug/dcl is considered poisoned). The child’s family, refugees from Somalia, only arrived in Minneapolis in June.

“Omar, who speaks Somali, worked with the family to ensure they made it to the child’s follow up medical visit. Omar received a call from the Minnesota Department of Health that the child’s blood lead level had increased to 52 ug/dcl, and the child was being admitted to the hospital that evening. The medical treatment for lead poisoning, chelation, is hard on the body; it removes not only lead but other essential metals such as calcium and iron. Iron and calcium deficiencies increase the danger of lead poisoning. It is very important that after chelation, a child is not exposed to additional lead hazards. Omar worked with the family to help explain what was happening and to answer questions during this frightening time.

“Omar worked with the child’s doctor to keep the child at the hospital an extra night and day until a safe place was made ready. Omar arranged availability at the City’s lead-free safe house and worked with the family’s sponsoring agency to provide transportation. The family moved into the safe house, and the child was safely discharged from the hospital and rejoined her family.

“Omar determined the source of the lead was paint chips found in the yard. The child was severely anemic, which induced her to eat the paint – her body craved metals and unfortunately the body doesn’t know the difference between lead and iron.

“Omar worked with a contractor at the property to do emergency cleaning and paint stabilization. She then coordinated with her colleagues and an independent lab to ensure the property was tested for lead hazards Friday evening. The house was cleared and the family was able to move back to their home on Saturday, just three days after the child was hospitalized.

“In the span of three days, Omar coordinated with the hospital, a private contractor, the physician, a private lab, a nonprofit organization and her colleagues to help a sick child while constantly keeping in touch with the family.”

Published Nov 1, 2016

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