Airman-Funded Heart Surgeries Change 150 Children's Lives
(March 26, 2010)
TRANSIT CENTER AT MANAS, Kyrgyzstan (3/22/2010 - AFNS) -- In
an age when Americans are able to vote for a healthcare bill
when they are dissatisfied with the current plan, many
people around the world, including in Kyrgyzstan, struggle
to afford surgery without any health insurance at all.|
|Staff Sgt. Crystal Myers, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James Kinsey and Senior Airman Jonathan Blythe, all from the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan, visit with Firuza Nurahunova, a 13-year-old Kyrgyz girl who just had open heart surgery March 21, 2010, at a hospital in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, to repair a faulty valve. This is Firuza's third heart surgery, and it was funded by Airmen in the Manas Area Benefits Outreach Society at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. MABOS is a non-profit organization on this installation that has now funded 150 open heart surgeries totaling more than $75,000 through private donations from Airmen and other caring Americans.
So, American Airmen from the Transit Center have rallied
together, raising or donating funds for what are now 150
heart surgeries for children in Kyrgyzstan, totaling more
The 150th surgery happened March 17 when 13-year-old Firuza
Nurahunova, who suffered from congenital heart disease since
birth, successfully underwent an aortic valve replacement,
the third, and hopefully final, surgery necessary for her
The surgery and recovery from it were the hard parts for
Firuza and her family to get through. The funding was easy
once Airmen got involved.
On Feb. 26, Claudia Kuric, the Kyrgyz Republic Peace Corps
country director, contacted the Transit Center humanitarian
assistance office with the following email request: "My
Kyrgyz local-hire staff member for the Peace Corps has a
child who needs a heart operation," she said. "Is it
possible to get her on the registry for the heart operations
that the Transit Center supports?"
Within four days, they had the answer: "The doctor is
willing to perform the surgery at no cost," said Chaplain
(Lt. Col.) James Kinsey, the head chaplain here. "The only
fees will be hospital expenses, and Manas Area Benefit
Outreach Society is willing to pick (those) up."
MABOS is a private organization that Airmen organized so
service members can make personal donations here to help the
local people in the community, according to the chaplain.
"The troops here at Manas are sharing their time, money,
talents, love and hearts with the Kyrgyzstan people," he
When Airmen visited Firuza in the hospital March 21, four
days after the operation, she was in good spirits. Her
parents, Polak and Shakura Nurahunova, were full of thanks.
"We wish you and your families peace and a long life of
happiness and health," they said through a translator.
Now, Firuza and the other 149 children like her who have had
surgery can go on to live their lives, enjoying their
favorite foods, favorite toys, and favorite colors. Firuza's
favorite color is yellow, and it matches her personality to
a "tee," according to those who have met her.
Firuza has the spunk of a young lady who's had to be strong
through a lot of pain, said an Airman who visited Firuza.
She was cracking jokes with the nurses in spite of a
low-grade fever, and looking forward to being released March
"There are no words to describe the gratitude and joy the
Peace Corps staff feels concerning this very generous gift
you have given our cook's family," Kuric said, in an e-mail.
"The amount needed for this surgery was way beyond the
family's means. This child is such a joy, and our staff has
painfully watched over the last year as the child's energy
and life were waning."
"My staff is truly overwhelmed by this gift, and it has
prompted many conversations about the generosity of
Americans and Americans' philanthropic natures," she
continued. "One of my staff said it best yesterday when he
said, 'Someone needs to tell the people of Kyrgyzstan that
this is what ...Americans are really like. They have good
This 150th surgery blessed the Airmen here as much as it
blessed Firuza's family.
"I am amazed with how subjective the idea of happiness is,"
said Senior Airman Maria Gates, Transit Center coalition
coordinator and linguist. "You don't become aware of the
life you posses until you become exposed to something
different. Last weekend, I was exposed to a 14 year-old who
went through three heart surgeries, and was simply happy to
be alive. How fortunate is she, and how astonishingly lucky
USAF SSgt. Carolyn Viss|
376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News Service
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