Tabasum Sharqi (left) opens a book she received for graduating at the top of her Fatima Girls High School class at a ceremony held at the Kunar Department of Women’s (click for more)
Soldiers from the Polish Army and the Texas National Guard Agribusiness Development Team-IV check their shot grouping during qualification on the Polish AK-74 5.56 mm Mini-Beryl short assault rifle Feb. (click for more)
U.S. Army Soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, play an impromptu game of volleyball against a team (click for more)
Dr. Mehirulla Muslim, the Nurgaram District subgovernor, addresses an audience of teachers, government officials and citizens during a ceremony to celebrate a completed solar panel electricity project Feb. 21 in (click for more)
U.S. Army Spc. Raheem Stewart, an automations specialist with TF Phoenix, steps along the rafters of the building his team helped wire for communications. Stewart, from Dallas, was one of (click for more)
An Afghan National Army soldier from Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 201st Infantry Regiment, searches a pile of rocks in the courtyard of a high-value target home outside the village of (click for more)
U.S. Army Capt. Nicole Zupka of Fair Lawn, N.J., a battlewatch captain with Combined Joint Task Force-Paladin, helps an Afghan child with her writing skills during female engagement team training (click for more)
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers move through Kharwar District to prevent the Taliban’s freedom of movement Feb. 12. U.S. and Afghan soldiers braved more than 3 feet (click for more)
Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team II members, U.S. Army Spc. Justin Allen (left), a London, Ky., native, and U.S. Army Sgt. Nicholas Combs, a Corbin, Ky., native, get to know a (click for more)
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Nazawaly wants to be a doctor. But with her right hand wrapped in gauze, it's hard for the 8-year-old Afghan girl to even write her homework. She winces when she tries to use it, so she writes her lessons with her left hand. Even though it's a weekday, she's not in school.
"She's super tough; a tough little girl," said U.S. Army Capt. Adam W. Racusin, an orthopedic surgeon. "It's all right, sweetie."
Nazawaly tried not to pull her hand away from the doctor as she whimpered in pain.
"Move your hand like this, sweetie. This side looks good," Racusin said as he inspected her hand with his blue gloves on. "One more time, like this."
She whimpered again.
"That skin was just so beat up and nasty; it's been like that for a couple years," said Racusin about her hand. "When you try to stretch it, because it's been under so much tension and pressure, it doesn't take a joke."
Nazawaly and her father have been coming to see Racusin and the 745th Forward Surgical Team at Forward Operating Base Fenty in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar Province for about five months.
About two years ago, Nazawaly spilled boiling water on her hand. Her father, Sharaf Uddin, took her to the Jalalabad Public Health Hospital close to where they live. She had an operation on her fingers, but it wasn't very successful said Uddin.
"When I took her to the local hospital, they didn't give us a good result," said Uddin. "So I thought her hand was going to stay like that for life."
The hospital doctors told her to come back when she was older and her hand was stronger. Over the next two years, her fingers grew together and her hand formed into a ball.
Her father, a laborer with seven other children, didn't have enough money to hire a specialist for his youngest daughter's hand.
Then one day, someone came to him.
"A U.S. convoy came through town and stopped. I talked to them to see if they could do anything to treat my daughter's hand," said Uddin.
The convoy's commander took his cell phone number and told Uddin they would call him in a few days to see if they could help him. Uddin didn't think they would call.
A few days later, he got a phone call asking him to bring his daughter to FOB Fenty to meet with a surgeon.
She's had two operations in the past three months.
"You have to stage the operations," said Racusin. "If you try to do all four fingers at one time, then you risk the loss of blood to the fingers."
Racusin completed the second operation on her hand to separate her fingers from each other about a month ago. Syndactyl, a medical term, means that her digits were connected and the hand basically had no function, he said.
"It's not an easy surgery on a normal, healthy child's hand," said Racusin, a native of Granada Hills, Calif. "The smaller the hand it is, it's obviously harder. You're worried about injuring the artery and nerve that runs on each side of the digit."
The primary function of an FST is to provide surgical care for troops coming from the battlefield, stabilize them and move them to a higher-level facility. Though in some special cases, they take locals like Nazawaly.
"We've taken care of a lot of wounded warriors transitioning back to the States,” said Racusin. “We've taken care of a lot of [Afghan National Security Forces]. Out of all the stuff we've done, most people that work here, and myself included, are most proud of doing this kind of stuff for these kids."
I think the main reason we do this is because we see a child and want to do the right thing to help somebody out," said Racusin. "I certainly hope it promotes a good image of the United States military and the U.S. in general, and shows that we're compassionate and we care."
Racusin also acknowledged that helping one little girl can have an impact on the volatile region surrounding Jalalabad.
"I hope it counteracts some of the negative images the Taliban use in their propaganda," said Racusin. "That would be a great secondary benefit, but the primary benefit would be to give Nazawaly the best chance at life."
"All right Nazawaly, everything's good," said Racusin. "Her fingers look less swollen today."
He leaned closer and finished bandaging her hand.
"It means you're doing a good job," he said.
The shy little girl looked up from behind her aqua-blue veil and gave a slight smile.
"The first time she smiled at me was the last time she came here, and she got a teddy bear," Racusin explained. "She's had a rough last few months of her life."
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