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August 29, 2005

The Sandbox Mailbox

We've been looking for a deployed correspondent ever since MSG Keith returned.

We found somebody. Or, rather, somebody found us. We're still working out some OPSEC details, but in the meantime, here's something you won't see in the MSM...

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BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Karishma tried to be like any other eight year old, running and playing with boundless energy, but for her, there was an end to the energy.

She could never have had a normal, long life because of heart problems -- until a year ago.

Two U.S. Special Forces medical personnel, a medical sergeant and doctor, crossed paths with Karishma in September 2004 ultimately leading up to a successful lifesaving closed-heart surgery performed Aug. 14 by Dr. (Major) Michael M, a cardiothoracic surgeon stationed at the Bagram Airfield hospital.

“The surgery went extremely well,” the surgeon said. “She is a strong little girl. She will live a long, happy, healthy life.”

Karishma was three months old when her family found out she had heart problems from a doctor in Peshawar , Pakistan . They diagnosed her with Ventricular Septal Defect -- a hole in the heart’s wall -- a type of heart malfunction present at birth. Seven years later, village elders introduced her father, Abdula, to the Special Operations Forces medical sergeant and doctor. They had been conducting sick-call near Jalalabad in September 2004.

“I told Abdula that I could not treat Karishma, but I would do some research on the Internet about the problem and asked him to return a few days later,” said the SOF medical sergeant. “I researched the condition and found three non-profit organizations that could help. The same day I received a response from the Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, N.J., offering to perform the surgery free for the family through a program called ‘Children of the World Program.’”

The Deborah Heart and Lung Center reviewed Karishma’s charts and made a final diagnosis that she had Patent Ductus Arteriosus, where a part of her aorta did not close and develop after birth.

Everything was set for Karishma and her mother to travel to New Jersey for the operation. The entire trip and operation would be free of charge for the family. But, things took another turn.

Almost a year after initially seeing Karishma in Jalalabad, the SOF doctor overheard Dr. M saying he had done a similar surgery. He asked Dr. M if he would like to do another. The SOF doctor relayed this information to his medical sergeant. The sergeant later learned that M had actually performed the same surgery on another patient about a week earlier.

“I told Dr. M about Karishma and asked him if he was interested in doing another one, and he said, ‘Sure, why not’,” the SOF doctor said. The family learned of M's ability and willingness to perform the surgery at Bagram. They joyfully accepted the offer.

Abdula, who is a tailor with five sons and five daughters, could have never afforded the operation.

“I am very happy and very thankful to the Americans for helping Karishma,” Abdula said.

“She is very playful and energetic, she just gets tired real easy,” said the SOF doctor.

Karishma is currently in recovery at Bagram and expected to return home within a week.

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If you want to impress your friends, Deborah is pronounced "Duh bawr' uh" and the folks there have been conducting their "Children of the World" program -- with no fanfare -- for decades...

CW4BillT | Permalink | Comments (4) | Global War on Terror (GWOT)
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