A six-month-old Afghan boy and soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division have formed an unlikely bond, as a team of medics have pulled together in an attempt to save the child’s life.
John (his real name will not be released for security reasons), who suffers from a rare, life-threatening heart condition that causes severe heart murmurs and difficulty breathing, was brought to Camp Nathan Smith Medical Aid Center by his family when he started having trouble breathing on his own. The clinic has very little experience in pediatric care, but medics took the child in immediately, joining forces to provide John with the best care possible to stabilize him until more sophisticated treatment is available. John ultimately will need cardiothoracic surgery to survive.
John suffers from Transposition of the Great Arteries, a congenital heart defect that occurs when the large vessels that transport blood from the from the heart to the lungs or body are improperly connected. There are very few surgeons in Afghanistan qualified to perform the surgery John needs. Medics are working with medical authorities in Kabul to find relief organizations willing to donate funds to help John get the surgery he needs to save his life.
While they wait, the medics in this small clinic have become surrogate parents to John. Soldiers are taking turns staying up with him in the night, rocking him and feeding him. Cpt. Christopher Alden, a physician’s assistant, built John a crib, complete with a handmade mobile.
“When I saw John, I thought of my two kids back home,” Alden said in a statement released by Fort Carson. “I have no experience to help him medically, but I thought about what makes my kids smile and laugh, and I knew I had to do what I could to give John the same thing I would give to them.”
Maj. Jennifer LaBahn, officer in charge of the medical center, said that the experience has inspired many in the team of medics to research and train further for future pediatric care.
“This experience has really fostered a sense of family around here,” she said.