Friday, January 8, 2010
TWO little Afghan girls horrifically injured by a Taliban bomb have been saved by the determination and skill of a group of caring British soldiers and medics.
Three-year-old Kamila and pal Wasila, six, nearly died after accidentally triggering an improvised explosive device (IED) as they played outside their home in Musa Qala, Helmand Province.
Kamila took the brunt of the blast, suffering severe head injuries, while Wasila's stomach was ripped open by molten shrapnel causing liver damage.
Kamila's horrified father was on the scene in seconds and scooped up the girls and took them to Musa Qala District Centre, certain that coalition troops there would help.
But the injuries were so severe that they alerted a four-man British Medical Emergency Response Team, staffed by doctors and nurses, which raced to help in a Chinook chopper.
The girls were then flown to a hospital at Kandahar Airbase.
Kamila was placed in an intensive care unit where doctors feared the worst. The blast had paralysed her on her entire left side and brain damage left her unable to express emotion.
But the tender care of a British neurosurgeon, who had volunteered to serve in Afghanistan, along with his Canadian and American colleagues changed that.
After weeks of treatment Kamila and Wasila recovered. Doctors were even able to help Kamila show her emotions again - and she got back her cheeky grin.
The British neurosurgeon who cared for Kamila - who cannot be named for security reasons - said: "The majority of people I have treated are children under 15 years, and the most common injuries have been as a result of IEDs.
"It's great when it works out, as in this case. It makes it all worthwhile. But it takes the whole team to make it work, fantastic intensive care unit support, nursing staff and physiotherapists, especially as the hospital is not scaled for humanitarian medical aid."
Another doctor who treated the girls said: "Before Kamila arrived, we had a young boy with similar injuries who died, so we were all very nervous about the chances of recovery. After initial treatment, the signs were not good, as Kamila could not move her left side and was unable to express emotion.
"Although there were to be further complications, Kamila is now interacting with the people around her and even smiling.
"We consider Kamila our miracle child. She was such a morale booster, because we see so many kids that don't make it."
Lieutenant Andrew Jelinek, from the Household Cavalry Battle Group operating in Musa Qala, said: "IEDs laid by insurgents take a terrible toll on innocent civilians.
"They have had a deadly effect on British and coalition forces but it's the ordinary Afghan people that are hit the hardest.
"Unfortunately children are the frequent victims of Taliban IEDs and, sadly, the story of Kamila and Wasila is far from unique.
"It's only thanks to the work of British soldiers that there are not more incidents of this kind.
"Back home we worry about our kids' safety when they go out to play, but here it's on a different scale.
The dangers the kids face when they are out playing are life and death. The Taliban just don't give a stuff about them.
"They plant these bombs knowing kids might set them off but they just don't care."
Kamila's dad stayed with the girls throughout their treatment, but is anxious about returning home for fear the Taliban will suspect him of consorting with the enemy.
This week tearful staff said goodbye to the girls, who hitched a ride back to Musa Qala on a British Chinook returning for a routine task. They will now receive further medical care from their nearest Forward Operating Base.