KABUL, Afghanistan – A 16-month-old Afghan boy born with a life-threatening heart condition returned home to a joyful welcome in an Afghan refugee camp Wednesday after surgery in the United States.
Qudratullah Wardak (search) was treated at a children's hospital in Indianapolis after U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the Rotary Club (search) learned of his condition and his impoverished family's inability to find specialized care.
The boy and his father were escorted by American troops back to their family tent in a muddy camp next to an Afghan military barracks.
Despite heavy rain, more than 100 adults and children from the camp were waiting, and applauded wildly when the boy's father, Hakim Gul Wardak (search), emerged from a pickup truck clutching the boy, who looked plump and healthy, but screamed in alarm at the noise.
Wardak passed Qudratullah to the boy's grandfather, who carried him into the tent shouting "Thank God, Qudratullah is healthy, Qudratullah is back!"
His mother, Tajwar Wardak, said she was overjoyed at her son's recovery.
"I never believed my son could be healthy one day," she told reporters, her face hidden by a red scarf. "Afghan doctors said it was impossible to treat him here, so I'm happy he has been treated in America."
The boy's long journey began in September, when an Indiana National Guard doctor examined him at the camp and found multiple heart defects, the worst being the reversal of the heart's main blood vessels that stunted the baby's growth.
He weighed about as much as a typical 5-month-old when he arrived in the United States in late February.
The child and his father had stayed in Indianapolis with a member of the Rotary Club, which helped cover the estimated $100,000 cost.
An Indianapolis attorney is working with Wardak on a request for permanent residence in the United States for his family.
Capt. Michael Roscoe, a medic in Kabul, said the boy was transformed from a gray-skinned, sickly infant.
"I'm amazed, look at him," Roscoe said at a news conference, where Qudratullah resisted his father's efforts to quiet him. "He looks like a normal, healthy American baby, actually. He's big!"