The gift of life

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Another child, Mohammed, 7, had just had a lifesaving surgery to remove a large benign tumor from his lung.

Mohammed spent the day watching the movie “Night at the Museum” and playing with his stuffed toy cat, “Pishak.”

Every child was accompanied by a guardian at the hospital, and sometimes, the U.S. military offers jobs to those on base who cannot afford to be without work while their children are seeking treatment, Maj. Jones said.

The three operating rooms, which can turn into six surgical rooms, in the case of a “dire emergency,” are most always in use, said Air Force Col. Charles E. Potter, the hospital´s administrator and deputy command surgeon for Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.

“Originally, the Afghani people had a lot of fear when it came to accepting help from us at the hospital,” Col. Potter said. “Now that these guardians have been here and see the kind of care we take and work we´re doing, they have spread the word through their villages. It is part of reaching out to the hearts and minds. We´ve found a way to come together.”

As Latifa lay recovering from war wounds, so were a number of U.S. soldiers, some of whom preparing to fly to Germany and then to the United States for additional treatment.

There are roughly 200 scheduled medical evacuation flights a month from Bagram carrying battle-injured troops and other troops with serious medical conditions out of the country, Col. Potter said.

The hospital’s Task Force Med consists of a combat surgical staff and the Air Force 455th Expeditionary Medical Group.

Down the hall from Latifa, another victim of a separate rocket-propelled grenade attack, Army Sgt. 1st Class Pablo Cadena, of San Diego, who looked off into the distance as nurses checked the wound on his leg.

On Tuesday, he received the Purple Heart in a ceremony at the hospital. His convoy had been attacked Monday, shortly after he and others stepped outside their vehicle, he said.

Sgt. Cadena still hadn´t informed family members of his injuries.

“I just don´t want to call them yet,” the young soldier told the nurse, who was preparing him for a flight to Germany. “I know I can use the phone, I just don´t want them to worry.”

She complied, respecting his wish not to notify his two brothers. One of his best combat buddies, whose name is withheld pending notification of his family, lay in the intensive care unit just up the hall from him.

His injuries - from the same attack - were so severe that he could only move his eyes.

Sgt. Cadena asked the nurses to take him over to the intensive care unit so that he could speak to his fellow soldier before both were to be air lifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, in Ramstein, Germany.

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