BALA MURGHAB, Afghanistan – Afghan, American and Italian doctors are treating local Afghans here at an emergency medical clinic on Forward Operating Base Todd.
Today, Italian Lt. (Dr.) Marino Trivisani of the 8th Alpine Regiment, Tolmezzo Battalion is explaining to a man his daughter’s mental illness is likely the result of a child birth mishap and cannot be treated.
The girl also suffers from seizures. Trivisani prescribes medication that will help, but has none to give the man. He will have to find it himself.
The clinic is staffed by Italian, American and Afghan medical personnel. Every day, the clinic welcomes Afghans with a variety of problems from general illness to mental disability.
Patients must obtain a referral from a doctor in the community. Often, like the girl, the problems are complex and void of simple solutions, said Trivisani.
“In Italy, the first symptom you can go to the hospital. Here you see a problem he has for two years … three years. For example a big abscess: In Italy it is impossible.”
It is likely many Afghans, now living inside the coalition security bubble, have not had access to medical attention and are only now addressing their problems.
Such is the case for an Afghan boy. His father explained the boy’s leg was crushed between the donkey he was riding and a horse. Medical staff suspect a fractured femur. The boy has been hurt for two years.
An interpreter working with the group, wishing to remain anonymous, said education is a primary problem for Afghans. Some persistent medical problems could have been remedied with simple sanitation, such as cleaning and hand washing.
Further, the interpreter said, many Afghan men will not allow their wives and daughters to be treated by male doctors. He tells such patients they should send their daughters to school so they can be doctors, and Afghan women can receive needed medical care.
While not all patients can receive comprehensive treatment, many can, and do. In extreme cases, the clinic can summon a helicopter and move patients to a better equipped facility.
Trivisani says the clinic is having an impact on the community.
“They know we want to help them and they come here with the hope we can solve the [problem] for them so it is very important we are here.”
For now, the man with the mentally ill child will leave without a definite cure, but like so many other Afghans living inside the security bubble, solutions are closer than they have been in years.