GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan - A medical team at Forward Operating Base Ghazni provided urgent care to two Afghan female students from Jahan Maleka High School in Ghazni City, who were suffering from a possible poisoning attempt, at their high school, at 7:30 p.m., June 12.
The girls were among 60 other female students who were displaying signs of suffering from a possible aerial irritant. The other students, whose conditions were not as severe, were treated by the Ghazni Provincial Hospital.
“These two girls were in the worst condition out of the 60 who were affected,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Kari Miller, the 655th Forward Surgical Team chief nurse from Buhl, Idaho.
“Initially, they thought it was the water, but because it had to do with respiratory issues, they think it was something in the vents,” she said.
Symptoms included nausea, vomiting and unconsciousness for several girls.
An uncle, a cousin and the deputy governor of Ghazni province, Alhaj Allahyar, arrived with the girls at FOB Ghazni, concerned for their health.
All three men were convinced it was an insurgents’ attack, and the deputy governor was not surprised that the insurgents would do something like this.
“We understand the enemy, and we are not surprised by this,” said Allahyar.
The two girls, both in the 9th grade, were Helena and Soroya. Helena’s male cousin, Naim Ullah Ghazniwal, stood nearby while the medical staff administered initial treatment.
“They are killing our future,” Ghazniwal said about the insurgents.
He explained how some of the girls were unconscious, even on the road to the hospital. This was the first time in Ghazni City for this to happen, he said.
“I don’t know what the meaning of this war is,” he said. “We want peace in Afghanistan, but not with the Taliban.”
“Our beards are white from being so stressed out all these years.”
Soroya’s uncle, Ata Mohammed, was also at the clinic. He recalled how the girls’ situation worsened throughout the day.
“We took them from the hospital since they were released, but then we came back because they were having problems,” said Ata Mohammed.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Kang, 655th FST chief surgeon from Potomac, Md., spoke to the relatives about the girls’ condition.
He assured them it was unlikely they would need to be put on a ventilator.
“Fear may have made the symptoms worse,” Kang told the family members. “They got nervous and started to hyperventilate. It was probably a gas pumped into the school, but we don’t know for sure.”
Both Ghaznilwan and Mohammed were going to allow the girls to go back to school, despite the fact that insurgents may have poisoned the all-girls school.
“Of course we will let them go back to school,” said Ghaznilwan as Mohammed nodded in agreement. “No matter what happens.”
“The only solution for Afghanistan is to send everyone to school, men and women.”
The three men were able to see the girls in the clinic after they had calmed down. Medical staff from the 655th FST cautiously checked monitors and the patients every few minutes.
The staff was not certain if it was a gas attack.
“It could be a possible aerial agent, but we’re still not certain,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Sean Glasgow, 655th FST surgeon from San Antonio. “The fear of the attack may have amplified their symptoms.”
A water sample from the school’s well and blood samples from affected girls were provided earlier in the day. U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Turner, Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team medic from Decatur, Ga., had to wait for results.
“It will take at least 24-hours to see if the water was contaminated,” said Turner.
The 655th had already seen several trauma patients that day, but as a team they pulled through their weariness to assist the two girls.
“Despite the fact we had 13 traumas today, the team is still ready to see more patients,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Dwayne Baca, 655th FST medical service officer from Elmendorf, Alaska.
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