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Afghan boy aided by Army recovers from surgery

November 16, 2013

SCRANTON, Pennsylvania (AP) — A 7-year-old Afghan boy born with his bladder outside of his body awoke from corrective surgery just in time to say goodbye to the U.S. Army officer who helped make it possible.

Bilal Sharif had the surgery Thursday at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York, but was asleep Friday when Maj. Glenn Battschinger came to see him before leaving for a yearlong deployment in Africa, the Scranton Times-Tribune in Pennsylvania reported Saturday.

“I was getting ready to say ‘so long’ and he kind of opened his eyes,” Battschinger said. “I gave him a hug and a kiss and said, ‘I’ll see you when I see you.’”

The operation was a success, said Bilal’s host mother, Laureen Dempsey of Clark Summit. Doctors were keeping him asleep with a ventilator to help him breathe for a few days and he will require at least 10 additional days in the hospital before he will be released.

Dempsey said the surgery “set the stage for him to be a normal, healthy boy in every way.”

Despite his medical condition, Bilal worked alongside his father making bricks in Afghanistan before Battschinger intervened more than a year ago and made corrective surgery a possibility.

“You can’t even imagine how happy I am,” Battschinger told the newspaper.

Battschinger says his job as a civil affairs officer is to rebuild stability in parts of the world affected by war. He says that includes providing opportunities for children like Bilal.