Young Afghan burn victim
A young Afghan girl from Kandahar province is treated by Afghan doctors and U.S. military nurse mentors for burns to approximately 30 percent of her body.

KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb. 2, 2011 -- Noorzada, an 11-year-old Afghan girl, lay in a hospital bed in Kabul, Afghanistan, with burns to roughly 30 percent of her body. Less than a day earlier, her brother and sister died of similar burns - the result of a lamp exploding in their home in Kandahar, according to their father.

With help from coalition doctors, Noorzada may escape her siblings' fate.

"I took my children to a civilian hospital, but they said they could not help them," said the father, who asked not to be named over fears that insurgents would think he was collaborating with the coalition. His other two children injured in the incident were burned worse than their sister. His five-year-old daughter had burns on 54 percent of her body. His three-year-old son suffered burns on 40 percent of his body.

Afghan physicians in Kandahar, incapable of providing the care his children needed, encouraged him to try to get the children to an American facility, he said.

After a few more rejections from Afghan hospitals ill-equipped to provide care for burn victims, the father got his injured children to the Afghan National Military Hospital in Kabul, on Jan. 31, where U.S. military doctors could assist in their care. By then, a week had passed since the children were burned.

The U.S. military medical team and Afghan doctors at the hospital took the children in and wasted no time in getting them stabilized.

But early Tuesday, the younger children succumbed to their burns and the infection that followed.

"It's really difficult. One of the things we talk with the Afghans about is we treat your children like we treat our children," said Navy Lt. Jeremy Young, a nurse mentor at the Afghan National Military Hospital, who assisted in the treatment of the children. "It certainly builds a lot of trust with them and they know we are here to help them."

Due to the efforts of U.S. military doctors and nurse mentors working with Afghan doctors, the 11-year-old has a chance at survival.

Fortunate circumstances allowed the surviving girl to be seen by Army Reserve Lt. Col. Rob Sheridan, a doctor who specializes in trauma burns at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital and Shriner's Hospital for Children. He arrived in Kabul yesterday afternoon from Bagram Airfield, where he is stationed.

"We were very lucky to have him in country and have that type of resource," said Young.

After Sheridan examined the patient and redressed her wounds, which cover both of her legs and a portion of her hands, he informed her father of what needed to be done.

"We need to remove the dead tissue and close the wounds with skin grafts. It's a lot of surgery," Sheridan explained. He went on to tell the father that his child needed to be brought to a better hospital and and that she will require a lot of intensive care.

Doubts remained if the girl would survive the night for a morning medical evacuation to Bagram. But by dawn, the girl was lucid and able to talk to her family by cell phone.

She was transported Wednesday to Bagram Airfield's Craig Joint Theater Hospital, where she can get the surgery, skin grafts and post-operative care she needs.

"Thank you to the U.S.," the father said, "because they are doing all they can to help my children."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16