Hello and welcome to my blog. It is a blog about an Air Force Physician that was reluctantly deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan for 6 months.

I have to admit, I did not exactly volunteer for the deployment, and I was a little anxious about how it would all turn out. I ended up making the best of it, and surprisingly, I actually had a pleasant, life changing, experience.

I decided to keep the blog up and running because I kept on hearing, "Why is it that you only hear the bad news coming from Iraq and Afghanistan." I figured that I was helping spread a positive message about what we are doing over. Even more important, I wanted to continue to spread the word about the plight of the Afghan people, 99.9% of which are the most incredibly friendly people that you will ever meet. The title picture is a great example of that. I have never encountered such genuinely warm and friendly people. It was so strange to see so many people with so little material objects, yet at the same time, filled with so much of the joy that comes with close family ties, abundant friends, and a close knit community. We could definetly learn a lot from them.

You may notice, as you read the blog in its entirety, my arc. I shift from focusing on myself and my personal comforts, to shifting my focus on the Afghan cause. It is very easy to get distracted by the hustle of daily life and the comforts that the U.S. provides. It is really a challenge to awake from that coma and to start to care and think about the welfare of other people unrelated to you. I think it really took me about 4 or 5 months before I really opened my eyes and became personally affected by what I was experiencing. I hope I was able to recreate it.

I have tried to keep the blog squeaky clean so as to not offend anyone (or get me in trouble-I am still in the military). Even though I am a political junky with very strong personal opinions I have been steadfast in keeping this site free of any politics. I was called to do a job and I tried to do it to the best of my ability regardless of my political stance.

I recreated the blog to read more like a book, or should I say blook (get used to the corniness it only gets worse from here) just to make it an easier read. I have removed some names and pictures just to keep it more anonymous. I hope that it helps in making it less about me and more about the cause.

Lastly, in the spirit of the blog, I decided to include the Chipin Widget that I used to raise money for Nazia. If I get any additional money I will send the funds to The Women of Hope Project and someone over in Kabul will discretely give it to her (unless I hear otherwise). You can also contribute directly to the Women of Hope Project website. They are a wonderful cause. If you enjoy this blog then feel free to contribute. I am sure that once you read her story you will be very moved.

So kick back. Get ready to hopefully laugh and definitely cry.
If you like what you read then post a comment. I will be continuously editing this site in an attempt to improve it. Who knows maybe one day it will become a book!

Enjoy. Thanks for reading.


Today Show Clip

Chipin Widget

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hospital Visit

Often an entire city has suffered because of an evil man.
Hesiod Greek didactic poet (~800 BC)

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee. [Ezekiel 25:17 ]

I went to the hospital earlier this morning to visit with Nazia. It went a little different then I planned. I envisioned arriving and being able to sit with her for a while, letting her know that a lot of people are thinking about her and praying for her, and maybe ending it with a photo. When I arrived at her bedside she was sleeping and the majority of her head and face were wrapped in gauze and dressings. I spoke with one of the doctors and he informed me that she had recently had surgery to repair what is left of her nose. First thing I noticed is that she looked a lot younger then 15 or 16. In Afghanistan people do not really know their ages very well. I suspect she was more like 13 or 14. While I was there she would wake up and moan some incomprehensible words. You could tell that she was in a lot of pain. It was really sad because she was scared and all alone with no one to comfort her.

A little later the head surgeon came by. It turns out that he is the most experienced head and neck surgeon in all of Afghanistan. We spoke about Nazia for a while. He looked at me and said, "How old are you?" When I told him my age he replied, "I have been working in this hospital for over 30 years, almost as long as you have been alive." My interpreter, who is also a surgeon, told me that he is the premiere surgeon in the country. I was very relieved to know that Nazia was in good hands.

He wheeled her into another room to do a dressing change. He explained to me in great detail what he had done and what he planned to do. He recently cut out a horizontal flap, about 6 inches long over her forehead. One of the sides of the flap was still attached. He then attached the other end to form a nose. He did not sew the middle portion of the flap because in 20 days he plans on separating the end that is attached to the end of the nose and will sewing the remaining part of it back onto her forehead. I hope I explained that clearly enough. I was somewhat amazed that he was able to recreate her nostrils. He said that it would not be a problem. I asked him if he had done this before and his reply was, "Many times." Apparently it is not uncommon for women to have this type of injury done to them.

In my opinion a big problem with patient care in this country is that they under treat pain. Nazia was only getting diclofenac which is essentially an injectable form of Motrin. She was still obviously in a lot of pain.

Adam had accompanied me to her room and you could tell that he was visibly upset by all of this. He chose to stay by the doorway. I took some pictures but I do not think that any of them would be appropriate to display.

I also got a chance to meet Nazia's roommate. She was the sweetest little girl. I am not sure how old she was. Her mother was there and she told me that 3 years ago she was burned over her chin and neck. I do not think that I have ever seen such a horrific injury. I will not show a picture of her injury but I will try and describe it. Her lower lip was scarred to her upper chest. To better understand what I am talking about, take hold of your lower lip and touch it to your upper chest and you will be able to understand. She was unable to close her mouth because of the extensive scar tissue. Her lower teeth were pointing straight out. She is just a beautiful little girl and you just would have never of suspected the extent of her injuries without her removing her head scarf. I do not know why her mother had waited 3 years to finally get her treatment. I know that she comes from a distant province, but she really should have sought care sooner. This has probably been devastating for this little girl.

The doctors were nice enough to show me all of the patients on the ward. I saw rare birth defects and other injuries. One of the children with leshmaniasis and had a severely deformed nose. Leshmaniasis is very common in this country. It is transmitted by a sand flys. The doctor also showed me pictures from his digital camera of other patients that he had treated. I saw a number of really bad war-type injuries.

When I told the interpreter about the fund that I started for Nazia he said that I needed to get her a bank account. I thought that that was a good idea. I will try and work on that. He also told me that he contributes $50.00 every month to a bank account for another little girl. Remember, in Afghanistan $50.00 is a lot of money. The interpreter only makes $400.00 per month. Imagine not having a lot of money to begin with and giving 12.5% of your income to a complete stranger. He told me that the girl that he gives money to had a similar situation as Nazia, except she was 6 years-old when it happened to her. No that was not a typo, she was 6 years old! I know, it is almost too hard to believe. The girl was later sent to an orphanage and is now 16 years-old. I asked him to give me more information because I was really interested in learning more about her story.

It turns out that Nazia's husband, who I have heard was in his 40s but I suspect is a lot older (again, people do not know their ages over here), was a Talib (singular for Taliban). It got me thinking, this is why we are here. Nazia's husband was the type of person that was in power before we came over here. The Taliban was the type of regime that tolerated this type of behavior. They probably would have blamed Nazia and said that she was deserving of whatever punishment she received. I just could not imagine having those types of people running my country. The biggest victims were the most vulnerable, the women and children.

Imagine being an innocent 13 or 14 year-old girl and having your parents leave you alone to essentially be a slave to an older man who not only sexually abuses you, but also ends up torturing you. The surgeon actually told me a different story then what was reported in the news. The husband initially used a rock to break both of her feet and hands. Then later, after she did not have dinner ready for him when he got home (mainly because she was unable to walk from her previous injuries) he used a rock to break most of the teeth in her mouth and then he cut off her ears and her nose. I do not know what is worse, the man that did this to her or her parents who knowingly left her with this animal. Adam just came to my room to talk about her. He is still emotionally affected by it. You could see tears in his eyes.

I am not sure what will eventually happen to Nazia but my hope is that she will eventually go into an orphanage and live a long and happy life. She definitely will stay with me long after I leave here.

Thanks for reading.

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