BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (April 8, 2009) — A 2-year-old girl from Gardez province and her family flew to Cincinnati, Ohio earlier this month to have reconstructive surgery on the child’s trachea after swallowing a battery a year ago.
Nazia Gardezi had been a permanent resident of the Intensive Care Wing at Craig Joint Theater Hospital, Bagram Air Field since October 2008 when she was brought back to the hospital with severe pneumonia due to the family’s inability to suction her airway properly.
“Unfortunately,” explained Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Robert Elwood, chief pediatrician, Craig Joint Theater Hospital, “this kind of airway takes a certain amount of routine care. A lot of suctioning needs to take place and the family’s living circumstances made it where they were really incapable of taking care of it properly.”
Elwood said the team of physicians who treated Nazia here were able to repair the injury to her esophagus, but the airway had so much scarring resulting in a narrowing to the point Nazia could not move air in and out of her lungs.
“Fortunately, a group from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center learned of her case and has offered a team of highly-specialized surgeons to do a reconstruction of her trachea,” said Elwood.
As the team of physicians prepared Nazia for her 4 to 6 month trip, Elwood said she will be greatly missed.
“She has learned to walk here and has learned a very impressive vocabulary for a 2-year-old,” Elwood said. “The team has come to think of her like one of their own children. You have to stand in line to get a chance to play with her.”
Air Force Capt. LaRita Abel, nurse manager, intensive care wing, reiterated those thoughts.
“She really has become a part of our family. Every nurse and every technician really adores her,” Abel said.
As far as how it feels to be sending Nazia forward to the U.S. and putting her in other’s hands, Abel said she will miss her dearly.
“She has been a real pleasure to take care of,” Abel said. “It’s been a challenge and it’s been an honor.”
Once the reconstruction to Nazia’s trachea is complete, she will no longer need her tracheotomy and will be able to return to a normal life with her family.
That sits well with Elwood.
“She’s been a star,” Elwood said. “She is a very special little girl and we’ve been very fortunate to have her.”