FARAH PROVINCE, Afghanistan – After a 60 pound pipe fell on Allahadin Shah while he was digging a well, the 11-year-old boy was thankful that only his hand was crushed.
But infection spread quickly.
“I spent all I had on his treatment but it didn’t help,” said Nader Shah, the boy’s father. “He was going to die.”
The looming infection was not the only threat to Allahadin’s life. The prospect that his injury might prevent him from working was equally perilous.
“We are a poor family,” Shah said. “I wouldn’t have my son work if I didn’t have to. But I have no other choice.”
Shah had to sell most of his few possessions to pay for Allahadin’s treatment at a Herat hospital, but the boy’s infection only grew worse. Running out of options, Shah decided to take his son to the combined Afghan Local Police and coalition Special Operations Forces clinic in Khak-e Safed.
“When he got here, most of the bones in his hand were fractured and his hand was completely infected,” said the SOF medic who helped Allahadin. “We transported him to the Field Surgical Team in Heredia, where they amputated his hand. It probably saved his life.”
Allahadin has made several follow-on visits to the coalition SOF clinic to make sure his hand is healing properly, but now the medics in Khak-e Safed are looking toward a long-term treatment plan that will continue to help him with future appointments at the local Afghan clinic.
“We’re transferring his care entirely into the hands of Afghan doctors,” said the coalition SOF medic. “It’s sort of a ‘train the trainer’ concept. We’re building a relationship with the local clinic, and we plan to work with them more. Right now we’re just here to assist when necessary, and if local doctors need anything, help out a little bit.”
Coalition SOF personnel, like those in Khak-e Safed, are tasked with training and mentoring Afghan National Security Forces, who are now leading all aspects of combat and community assistance operations. As Afghan capabilities continue to develop, the medics in Khak-e Safed, and throughout the country, will continue to mentor wherever possible.
“They’ve given us medicine and visited our clinic,” said Mohammad Tahir, a doctor in Khak-e Safed, who will soon become Allahadin’s primary physician. “We are very grateful for their help.”
“Our major focus is to assist in the development of these villages,” said Maj. Seah Kuehl, a spokesman for Special Operations Task Force – West. “Everything that we’re working towards is for sustainability in these communities.”
Coalition SOF live amongst Afghans in small villages throughout the country. They are able to forge strong bonds with local citizens as they address issues of village development, security and governance together.
In the spirit of this enduring relationship, the SOF forces in Khak-e Safed have offered Allahadin a job on their camp as soon as he has healed.
“They helped me out a lot, it’s not something easy that they did for my family,” said Allahadin’s father. “They saved my son’s life.”