KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – On an isolated mountain in Day Kundi, an Afghan child lay motionless and unresponsive. The boy had fallen off a precipice, rolled down a hill and hit his head so hard, he was knocked unconscious. The boy’s father took him to the nearest Afghan clinic but his injuries were far beyond the clinic’s capabilities. This young child, in pain, was doomed to a terrifying fate, until team of “Green Berets” stepped in.
The child was unconscious for the first 24 hours. The entire left side of his body was unresponsive and the local clinic was powerless as the young child writhed in pain, delirious and confused. Fortunately, a Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha arrived in the area and was promptly notified of the young boy’s condition. Without hesitation, an SF medic provided care while the team coordinated to have the child evacuated.
“We’ve had quite a few children come in with head injuries, but never from so far away,” explained Doctor Martin Christie, Consultant Neurosurgeon in Kandahar. The child and his father were evacuated via helicopter and arrived at Kandahar Airfield after a 60 minute flight.
“Our immediate concern was the swelling around the child’s head. After x-rays, we discovered a skull fracture. The fracture had separated and one edge had dug into the membrane covering the brain, causing lacerations on the cortex of the brain. The pressure from pulcations of the brain forced the brain up through the fracture. If untreated for an extended period of time, you can lose a significant portion of the brain. In addition, the child also suffered from a collected liquefied blood clot.”
The surgery consisted of tidying up the tear in the brain by applying a patch to keep the brain inside, then replacing the bone so that the fracture could no longer grow.
“It was quite a major surgery for such a young child,” commented Christie. “Prior to the surgery, the child experienced a weakness to the opposite side of the body. Sadly, his condition remains the same. He will probably regain full functionality with the passage of time, given the absence of any complications, such as the development of epilepsy. However, it’s been 10 days since the incident and he has yet to experience any seizures, so I feel confident this will not be an issue.”
“The child was a toddler before the incident,” Christie remarked solemnly, “but he hasn’t walked since. We will keep him here long enough for him to see our physical therapist to try to get him back on his feet. We are ensuring he maintains a healthy appetite and our nurses have been extraordinary with him, even though they’re trained to look after Soldiers. Unfortunately, follow-ups aren’t realistic, due to the distance from coalition forces or an Afghan hospital.”
“One of my personal reasons for coming here is primarily focused around winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people and this case exemplifies that campaign,” exclaimed Christie. “When we can help in a situation like this, when situation is so drastic, it makes me feel like we’re really making a difference for the people.”