Refugee Qusay Hussein bounces back from suicide bombing

Dr. Jeffrey Cone is the latest to help the Iraqi-American to heal and prosper.

For six hours on Feb. 26, 2016, Dr. Jeffrey Cone — along with Dr. Craig Hobar — worked on Qusay Hussein’s face and nasal passage.

“Not many have gone through what Qusay has gone through,” Cone, craniofacial surgeon, says about the refugee who was left for dead after a suicide bombing in his native Iraq. Hussein had undergone more than 50 previous procedures.

“There were soft-tissue issues as well as bone,” Cone continues. “They both had to be addressed. He had had an overgrowth of the bone on the nasal floor. That wasn’t as obvious until we were in the surgery. We burred a new floor to the nasal passage. It took that long because there were so many things that we were doing.”

To dispel any lingering suspense, the operation was a success. Hussein, 27, was recently honored during his GED celebration at Austin Community College.

Readers might recall Hussein’s story when he was featured in a Season for Caring article in 2013. Even his father didn’t recognize him after the 2006 bombing.

“Take me so I don’t die,” Hussein called out amid the post-explosion chaos. A police transport truck moved him with others to a clinic. A doctor told his father: “Don’t bother. He’s not going to last a half hour. Take care of your other sons.”

That doctor greatly underestimated Hussein’s will to live.

“I am bionic,” joked Hussein, whose English has improved incredibly in the past three years, thanks to training from the iACT interfaith charity, then ESL classes at ACC. “What’s amazing about Dr. Jeffrey, when you talk to him, he listens to you. … He gives you plenty of time. Some doctors are so quick.”

“He happens to be a super healer,” says Cone, who practices at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center and Wellspring Plastic Surgery. “He heals really quickly. We call him Wolverine. And like Wolverine, he has metal in his body. His story is inspiring. As he’s telling me about it — how he helps so many people out — it’s a treat to help him out in whatever he needs.”


Despite his blindness and other disabilities, Hussein served as a counselor for Doctors without Borders during his time as a refugee in Jordan. He plans to study social work in college, and he hopes to earn his Ph.D. in psychology.

“I want to be a clinical psychologist helping people with trauma,” Hussien says. “I’m good at helping people get out of where they are.”

Hussein’s progress and help for others can be followed at

His tone turns darker when he talks about his hometown of Mosul, Iraq, currently controlled by ISIS, which confiscated his father’s two houses.

“My family moves from village to village to avoid the terrible ISIS,” Hussein says. “No phone. No electricity. They cook with wood. No jobs, no work. They put the city a thousand years back.”

Recent political demagoguery against refugees baffles him.

“If you go back to the history of the U.S., we are all refugees in this country,” he says. “It’s an amazing country for me. It gives you the opportunity to achieve your goals, if you have goals.”

He doesn’t know what to tell the people who are against refugees.

“They probably don’t interact with refugees and only hear about it on the news,” he says. “They don’t know what a refugee goes through. Nobody wants to leave their own country, but sometimes things become intolerable and you have to leave.”

Cone, 36, who grew up in Amarillo and attended medical school in Galveston, says much of the basic work was done by the time Hussein was referred to him by Dr. Lindsay Young, who had also performed surgery on the Iraqi-American.

“What he had in Iraq and Jordan, where they built a new nose from scratch, this was more about getting the scars to look better, the face to be balanced, the skull smoothed and the nose opened,” Cone says. “He’s seen the worst of humanity and also the best of humanity. He’s got such a joy and a drive to help others. That’s a powerful existence.”

Matthew Dowd and Evan Smith for Toast of the Town

“Presumptive Republican Party nominee Donald Trump could win the presidency, but probably won’t.”

“Voters will be choosing between two presidential candidates who most people don’t like.”

“A loss at the top of the ticket might actually help down ballot.”

“The two-party system as we know it could very well spin apart. And that might be a good thing. Especially for monopoly states like Texas.”

These are some of the political bon mots gleaned from a machine-gun-style talk given by Evan Smith and Matthew Dowd at Franklin Barbecue. The Toast of the Town event, which benefited the St. David’s Foundation’s health science scholarship program, was not only sold out, but also attracted a record-setting waiting list.

Part of that can be credited to the brisket. After all, most of the guests raised their hands when foundation captain Earl Maxwell asked who had previously eaten at the landmark spot.

Yet even those motivated primarily by meat got the show of the month. Smith, formerly of Texas Monthly, now at the Texas Tribune, was every bit as entertaining as Dowd, a practiced political consultant and opinion-maker as well as entrepreneur (also, our neighbor).

Big brains. Fast talkers. Unconventional thinkers. Their conclusions about the current political climate could fill a slim book.

Yet the takeaway, especially according to Dowd, is the possibility of a multiparty system in the near future.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Lifestyle

Don’t miss Blanton’s final summer kids’ programs, more events, July 22-28
Don’t miss Blanton’s final summer kids’ programs, more events, July 22-28

Events National Dance Day. Ballet Austin offers $10 classes all day Saturday, to benefit Ballet Austin’s Pink Pilates program for breast cancer survivors. Classes are available for people ate 10 and up. 9:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 501 W. Third St. Sign up at Teen Turn Up. Teens ages 11-17 enjoy teen parties all summer long at Austin&rsquo...
Today’s horoscopes - Sunday, July 22

ARIES (March 21-April 19). Competition is usually bad for close relationships, as you want to lift, not outshine, the ones you love. However, sometimes the competition brings out the best in everyone, as is the case today. TAURUS (April 20-May 20). Boredom is a necessary part of life — and one that keeps you questing forward to discover new horizons...
How China Smith is changing the face of dance in Austin
How China Smith is changing the face of dance in Austin

It’s almost showtime, and China Smith is wrangling butterflies. The 4- and 5-year-old dancers flutter in a wide circle, their ballet shoes tip-tapping across the AISD Performing Arts Center stage as their intricate wings flow behind them. Once they step into position, Smith pauses to show a wayward monarch where to stand. “Use this line...
Today’s birthdays - Sunday, July 22
Today’s birthdays - Sunday, July 22

Today’s Birthdays: Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., is 95. Actor-comedian Orson Bean is 90. Author Tom Robbins is 86. Actress Louise Fletcher is 84. Rhythm-and-blues singer Chuck Jackson is 81. Actor Terence Stamp is 80. Game show host Alex Trebek is 78. Singer George Clinton is 77. Actor-singer Bobby Sherman is 75. Former Sen...
Home remedies: Treating your sunburn
Home remedies: Treating your sunburn

It boils down to what’s in the term sunburn: “sun” and “burn.” Simply put, the sun burns your skin. And the result can be pain, redness, blisters and peeling skin. “Prevention is the key,” says Dr. Cindy Kermott, a Mayo Clinic preventive medicine physician. “But if you’ve already been sunburned...
More Stories