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Press Release | Jan. 5, 2009

Special Operations, Coalition forces give Afghan child a second chance at life

By None , U.S. Forces - Afghanistan

Press Release

United States Forces-Afghanistan

January 3, 2009

Release Number 20090301-01

Special Operations, Coalition forces give Afghan child a second chance at life

KABUL, Afghanistan - Shair Ahmad and his wife were living a parents’

worst nightmare.  Their young son, Hamid, was desperately ill and Ahmad,

a farmer from the Farah province, did not have the means to pay local

doctors for his care.

At first, things had looked up for Hamid after his father was able to

raise the money for one surgery at a hospital in Heart.  Doctors removed

a giant tumor protruding from the child’s left eye, and he did quite

well for a few months.  Sadly, over the next eight months, the mass

returned and continued to grow exponentially.

Ahmad and Hamid, who is thought to be five or six years old, traveled to

hospitals from Farah to Heart to Kabul, and even to Pakistan, but with

limited money their efforts were mostly futile.

Finally, over a year after Hamid’s plight began, his father brought him

to see U.S. troops at a Special Operations Forces clinic in Farah.  The

SOF clinic had referred a number of suffering Afghans to Bagram Airfield

doctors, and they believed Hamid’s case was one that definitely

warranted more extensive care.

"Our team in Farah sent us pictures of Hamid, which we evaluated and

then passed along to Task Force MED. Their ophthalmologist and head and

neck surgeon agreed to see and evaluate the boy," said Army Dr. (Lt.

Col.) Andrew Landers, Combined Joint Special Operations Task

Force-Afghanistan surgeon.

Shortly thereafter, the Farah Provincial Reconstruction Team arranged a

flight to bring Ahmad and Hamid to Bagram Airfield to meet with the


"A CT (computer tomography) scan revealed that Hamid had a noninvasive

tumor of the eye, meaning the tumor had not yet invaded the skull. The

tumor hadn’t reached his brain at that point, but the growth would have

continued to progress had it not been removed," Landers explained.

Medically speaking, Hamid was suffering from rhabdomyosarcoma, a

fast-growing, malignant tumor.

Hamid underwent surgery on Dec. 26, in the care of Air Force Dr. (Maj.)

Brian Moore, a head and neck surgical oncologist assigned to TF MED.

Moore and his team removed the tumor to the base of the skull and

performed facial reconstruction.

"The surgery went extremely well; Hamid is healing without complication

and he should be able to return to Farah shortly," Moore said. Hamid is

expected to have recovered in six-to-eight weeks and to return to Bagram

to be fitted for a prosthetic eye.

Although the boy has hurdled one major obstacle, his future is still

paved with uncertainty. Both Landers and Moore agree that follow-up care

is imperative to Hamid’s long-term survival.

The removed tumor was sent to Germany for further examination, and the

results will help determine exactly what kind of supplementary treatment

Hamid will need to have.

Arrangements could possibly be made to send Hamid to Pakistan for

chemotherapy or radiation treatment, Moore said.

Without the additional care, the tumor may very well reappear. For now,

however, Moore says he is thankful to have the opportunity to improve

Hamid’s current quality of life.

"It is fortunate that the right people and the right technology were

available to help Hamid. We were able to lend a hand when nobody else

could. We don’t ask for anything in return; we cared for this young boy

simply because it was the right thing to do," Moore said.

"I also hope others will take notice of the way we’ve treated Hamid. If

people see the lengths we are willing to go at the individual level it

will help inspire confidence in Americans at the global level," he


The care his son received meant the world to Ahmad, who openly expressed

his satisfaction with the U.S. service members who have given Hamid a

brighter future.

"I cannot say ‘thank you’ enough. For over a year I have worried

constantly about my son, believing there was nothing that could be done

for him. Now Hamid is not in pain and the tumor is gone. I am grateful

to the U.S. doctors," Ahmad said.

For his part, Hamid says little, but smiles shyly at visitors to his

hospital room. He whispers to his father that he is looking forward to

going home, where his mother, six brothers and two sisters are eagerly

awaiting his return.