Zahara's Fight

Zahara's Fight
London Entertainment/Splash News

08/01/2005 AT 11:00 AM EDT

Just a day after picking up her newly adopted daughter in Ethiopia, Angelina Jolie began to worry something was wrong. Six-month-old Zahara Marley Jolie, already underweight at just 9 lbs., wasn't drinking enough formula. Jolie took Zahara for a checkup – and wound up spending a week by her daughter's side in a New York City hospital as the baby battled a bacterial infection that, left untreated, could have been life-threatening. "Like anybody else," Jolie "was a mom who was very concerned and afraid," says Dr. Jane Aronson, the pediatrician and expert in international adoption medicine who treated Zahara. "She didn't know what the answers were going to be. She was really afraid that the baby wouldn't get better."

Fortunately, after being treated with fluids for dehydration and antibiotics to combat what Aronson eventually diagnosed as a salmonella infection, Zahara left the hospital "happy and gurgling" July 15 with a clean bill of health, says Aronson. "She's a fighter." A friend of Jolie's says the ordeal was"an extremely emotional time" for the actress. "She was there 24 hours a day, keeping watch," says Aronson. "She kept saying how much she admired her baby. She had so much admiration and respect for Zahara's strength."

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Jolie, 30, took Zahara to be examined by Aronson in Manhattan on July 8, just hours after arriving in the U.S. with her son Maddox, 4, and a nanny. Aronson says Zahara was dehydrated, had a low-grade fever and showed signs of a fungal infection in her mouth, a possible symptom of malnutrition. Zahara was clearly "pretty poorly nourished," though her height is in line with other infants her age, Aronson says. (Zahara's mother is believed to have died of AIDS a month after giving birth and her father is unknown.)

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