Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Good News from the 'Stan

European Stars and Stripes
January 24, 2005

U.S. Medics Go The Extra Mile To Help Sick Children In Afghanistan

By Kevin Dougherty, Stars and Stripes

KABUL, Afghanistan — A man cradling a sickly child in his arms and walking for a couple of hours to get help makes for a powerful image.

Perhaps just as inspiring is the willingness of people half a world away to step forward and save the little guy with a bad heart from certain death.

The outpouring of support “has been just amazing,” said Capt. Mike Roscoe, a physician assistant with the 76th Infantry Brigade, Indiana National Guard.

By late February, the benefactors who have rallied to the aid of Qudrat Ullah hope to fly the 1-year-old to the United States for a heart operation.

“He will die without the surgery,” said Lt. Col. Terry Snow, the brigade’s civil military affairs officer.

During an October visit to a refugee camp near Kabul, a brigade medical staff evaluated Qudrat, one of many kids examined that day. It confirmed an earlier diagnosis by a Pakistani doctor that Qudrat has a hole in his heart, inhibiting the flow of blood through his body.

But due to a lack of adequate equipment on hand and certain policies, the medical team couldn’t move him. Two days later, the boy’s father, Hakim Gul, walked to Camp Phoenix with his only child in his arms.

Thus began a tedious effort by the guard unit to get Qudrat to Riley’s Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. It involved coordinating with doctors and organizations, fund-raising and plenty of paperwork, such as visas.

“Every time we turned around there seemed to be a roadblock,” Snow said.

Doctors at the hospital have offered to perform the surgery, estimated to cost at least $50,000, free of charge, Roscoe said. In addition, the Rotary Club of Greenfield, Ind., of which Snow is a member, has agreed to cover many of the out-of-pocket expenses during the estimated 30-day stay.

“We are just waiting for the military to OK his flight,” Roscoe said. “Everything is ready. Our end is pretty much done.”

Meanwhile, another effort is under way to send a 5-year-old Afghan boy stateside for surgery to repair his arms, chest and back, which were burned in a house fire. The fire killed his mother and a couple of siblings.

Soldiers at Camp Phoenix said Wednesday they raised enough money to help him and his father obtain travel visas.

“He’s a tough cookie,” said Sgt. Patrick Thibeault, a medic in Herat who, while assigned to Camp Phoenix, treated the boy. “If he could get the operation, he’ll be back to normal in a couple of years.”

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