LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Medics at Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam in Afghanistan’s Lagham province recently treated Afghan children suffering from a variety of medical problems including second degree burns and polio, March 29 and 30.
Last week, a father appeared at FOB Mehtar Lam’s front gate seeking medical assistance for his two-year old daughter. She had sustained second-degree burns on her feet when one of her cousins pushed her too close to an open fire.
U.S. Army Pvt. Joshua M. Koplowitz, of Amston, Conn., a medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Iron Grays, assisted in her medical treatment the first day as well as her follow-up visits. He vividly remembers the emotions of that first day.
“When she first came in, I felt horrible,” Koplowitz said. “She was in tears and screaming.”
Initially, the family went to the Mehtar Lam hospital but received very basic service at best. Fortunately, the family found their way to FOB Mehtar Lam where they received proper treatment, including an offer for follow-up visits.
“If we hadn’t been here for them, it could have been a lot worse,” Kopowitz said. “She could have lost her feet or she could have died from infection.”
During their most recent follow-up appointment, the family brought a neighbor with them. The neighbor was concerned because his son’s growth was stunted and he could not walk despite being six years old.
U.S. Army Capt. Philip M. Hotchkiss, of Panama City, Fla., the senior medical officer with the Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team, gave the young boy an examination and diagnosed him with polio.
“Unfortunately, we cannot undo the growth issues,” Hotchkiss said. “However, we are providing vitamin supplements to help him in the future and are coordinating with operation care to obtain braces for his legs to help him walk again.”
The medics are more than happy to treat the locals, however, they are also committed to helping them develop and implement long-term solutions to their healthcare system.
After treating the two young patients, Hotchkiss met with the Laghman provincial line director of public health to discuss the capabilities of the local hospital. During a tour of the Mehtar Lam hospital, the director pointed out factors that were limiting the hospital’s capabilities such as an undersized sewage tank that prevented the entire hospital from being utilized.
The PRT now has engineers working with local engineers to develop a solution for the issue.
“Ideally, this will lead to improvements in their health care system, and the locals will have more options for timely care, independent of foreign assistance,” Hotchkiss said.
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