Kandahar Kids Continue Recovery at Combat Support Hospital

By Staff Sgt. Keith Thompson, USA
Special to AFPS

BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Jan. 20, 2004 – On Jan. 6, a series of explosions ripped through the east side of the city of Kandahar, and 11 days later the effects of those explosions were still evident on the children in the 452nd Combat Support Hospital here.

As many as 14 people were killed and dozens were wounded in the double bomb blast in the "spiritual home of the Taliban," just one day after Afghanistan adopted a new constitution, according to a statement from the office of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.

The victims were mainly children from the nearby Abdul Ahad Karzai primary school, named after the president’s father, who was assassinated by Taliban agents five years ago. Many were transferred to medical facilities at Kandahar Air Field, while others were evacuated to Bagram.

"We received 11 victims total – all of them being children," said Capt. Mary Jo Literski, a nurse with the 452nd CSH out of Milwaukee, Wis. "For our facility, that’s a large number of casualties all at once."

Literski said most of the injuries were shrapnel wounds from the explosion, many of them requiring surgery. "The shrapnel only makes a small puncture mark when it goes in, but then it does a lot of damage on the inside. So most of them needed abdominal surgery to get the shrapnel out and repair the damage to the internal organs," Literski said.

She said that without the medical care provided at the U.S. hospital, many of the children would have died.

"(In Afghanistan) there is a medical system, but it’s very limited," Literski said. "Their surgical capabilities are almost not available."

Although the hospital gets casualties from Kandahar often, the large number of children has prompted visits from media and service members concerned with the children’s welfare, Literski said.

She said several service members have come to the hospital to visit the children and bring them gifts.

"The kids in general are very gracious of the care that we give them," Literski said. "Initially, they seem frightened because they don’t understand the language and they don’t understand what we’re doing. After sometimes hours and sometimes days, you can see the difference in the children in how they react to you – how they trust you," she said.

The children are not the only ones who benefit from the services provided by coalition forces, since the health care providers get a lot of satisfaction from helping patch up the victims of a country in turmoil, Literski said.

Karzai condemned the attack as an "act of cruelty and barbarism," and said it would only strengthen his resolve to fight terrorism in Afghanistan.