JavaScript Menu, DHTML Menu Powered By Milonic

News and Views

American Surgeon Gives Afghan Boy a Second Chance

The remote southwestern city of Farah is home to much heartbreak, but one boy’s story is giving both Afghans and Americans a reason to celebrate. Thanks to Californian surgeon Peter Grossman and Army Captain Jay Berendzen, a young Afghan boy will be able to experience the joys of a normal childhood.

While stationed with a Civil Affairs unit stationed in Farah, Captain Berendzen witnessed the lack of basic services and the suffering of the city’s poor. One evening last year an Afghan man came to Captain Berendzen’s office with his young son Mahsoom. Mahsoom had been severely burned in a kitchen fire that scarred his face, chest and arm. He could not close the left side of his mouth and he could only eat or drink with great difficulty. The accident had so disfigured Mahsoom that, without proper treatment, the boy’s frail body would never fully develop. Throughout the entire meeting, the boy was completely silent. He hid his face behind a fan of dried flowers. In his other hand he held a single gourd.

There was little that Captain Berendzen could do to help; the NGOs in the area lacked the facilities to perform the intricate surgery, and the army could only evacuate people with life threatening ailments. As he ushered the boy and his father out of his office, Captain Berendzen offered the only gift he could, a backpack with pens, pencils, paper, and a small stuffed animal. Without missing a beat, Mahsoom extended his hand and offered Captain Berendzen the gourd in return. His father, grinning with pride, insisted that the Captain accept this modest gift. 

As the month passed, the slowly shriveling gourd sat on Captain Berendzen’s desk. Mahsoom’s situation seemed hopeless, and Captain Berendzen began to lose hope. But when he had all but given up, Captain Berendzen chanced upon a Reader's Digest from 2005, which profiled the work of Dr. Grossman. The surgeon had preformed a miraculous operation on another young Afghan who suffered from disfiguring burns. The girl was named Zubiada, and she made a full recovery from injuries that would have otherwise condemned her to a life of anguish.  The story inspired Captain Berendzen to work against all odds and find an American doctor who would help Mahsoom. He didn’t have to look far. Captain Berendzen’s first email to Dr. Grossman was met with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Dr. Grossman offered to perform the surgery at no cost, and began making phone calls immediately.

Captain Berendzen and Dr. Grossman worked with the Children's Burn Foundation to secure funds for Mahsoom’s travel to the United States and his hospital stay.  The Herat Rotary Club also offered to raise funds via its southern California branch.  Dr. Abdul and Sharifa Asat and their children graciously agreed to take Mahsoom into their home during his stay in the U.S. 

Mahsoom arrived in the U.S. on December 27. He completed his first surgery on January 4 at the Grossman Burn Center. Mahzoom was accompanied by Afghan surgeon Dr. Asat and Dr. Grossman’s previous patient Zubaida, who went through the process four years earlier. She held Mahsoom’s hand before the surgery and told him not to be afraid. Future surgeries will include grafting the skin from his legs to his face, neck, chest and left arm, and the re-sculpting of his lower lip and left ear. Although the work is far from over (Mahsoom will receive numerous operations over the next 6-12 months), Mahsoom is being given a second lease on life thanks to the dedication of a few selfless heroes. His story is illustrative of the American people's continued good will for Afghanistan.

Mahsoom is only one of many deserving Afghans who have been disfigured by severe burns. TriWest Healthcare Alliance has partnered with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Health Ministry to establish a burn ward in Afghanistan.

For more information on Mahsoom, please contact the Children's Burn Foundation at You can also contact the Children’s Burn Foundation to make a donation to Mahsoom and contribute to his recovery. You can read more of Zubaida’s inspiring story at

Home | Contact Us | Sitemap © 2006 Embassy of Afghanistan and GlobeScope Inc. All Rights Reserved.