Manas Airmen’s Charitable Program Reaches Milestone
By Tech. Sgt. Jerome Baysmore, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan, April 2, 2008 The Manas Air Base Outreach Society and the local Children's Heart Ward recently passed a milestone in the community.
Dr. Samudin Shabyralie, a heart surgeon in the local Institute of Cardiac Surgery and Organ Transplantation, and Dr. Kaldarbek Abdramanov, director and professor of surgery, check on the Manas Air Base Outreach Society-sponsored 100th heart surgery patient, Alymbekov Amanbek, March 29, 2008, in the Children's Heart Ward. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jerome Baysmore
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
With support, donations and hope from the base, two doctors who perform heart surgeries for free recently performed their 100th surgery.
During a trip to meet the doctors and the 100th patient on March 29, a small group of Manas Air Base personnel also visited with the 99th and 101st heart surgery patients, and played with some of the kids on the ward still awaiting treatment.
"I'm very pleased with the years of our friendship," said Dr. Kaldarbek Abdramanov, director and professor of surgery in the local Institute of Cardiac Surgery and Organ Transplantation. "I hope we can continue this partnership for many years."
Abdramanov said the children's heart ward receives patients from all over Central Asia, but they only are able to help a fraction of them because of the cost.
"Most families here live under the line of poverty, and to have a sick child with a medical condition adds a great strain on a family," he said. "Doctors are supposed to tell the truth, and so I tell you that the Americans help us a lot -- your support is important.
"The government doesn't have the means to help everyone, and the families don't have the money. So when Americans showed up and gave us support, it helped a great deal," he said. "Even if you helped just a little, it would be a big deal for us, but you have helped a lot."
Manas Air Base airmen assist the heart ward by covering the fee for the “oxygenator,” a piece of equipment needed for each surgery that costs $560. The Manas Air Base Outreach Society has addressed that need with its Children's Heart Ward focus group. Airmen raise money to pay for the oxygenators for heart surgeries and sometimes for other types of surgeries so that even more children can be assisted.
The 376th Expeditionary Maintenance Group held a fundraiser to support the 100th surgery, explained the 376th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron KC-135 section chief, Master Sgt. Scott Kaulig, who is deployed to Manas from Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.
"The maintenance group asked for donations to support the 100th surgery," the Cincinnati, Ohio, native said.
The simple tactic worked. In fact, the outpouring of support was so great, the group ended up funding the 101st surgery as well. "I'm very proud of the group and the (817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, Detachment 1) C-17 airmen for donating the money to help," Kaulig said.
Abdramanov explained that his clinic supports the 5 million people in the Kyrgyz Republic, and his ward sees about 2,000 to 3,000 adult patients annually. They can only fully support about 400 to 500 a year. It isn't for lack of skill, but lack of funding. He explained that his clinic has doctors who are as qualified as doctors and surgeons in Europe.
The situation is the same for the children. The clinic sees about 5,000 to 6,000 children annually and is only able to help about 300 children a year.
"Heart surgeries are very expensive, and that's why most hospitals have a lot of financial difficulties," he said. "But I can't thank you for your help enough. You Americans are modest and don't make a big deal of it; you help and expect nothing in return."
Dr. Samudin Shabyralier, a heart surgeon who's been with the children's heart ward since Manas Air Base supported the first surgery, has seen the benefit of the long-term partnership.
"I'm very pleased with the support from the Americans," he said. "I hope that we can work together for many years.
For him, it is also about helping people.
"The reason I stay involved is because I have a 3-year-old son of my own, and I love to help others any chance I get," Shabyralier said.
"God sees everything and everyone; we have some well off people this country that do not help as much as they could. And what you do is important. I know that I've given a lot of my time helping others, but I still feel that it's not enough."
Abdramanov expressed similar sentiments. "For me, I must help; just to see a child smiling again is reason enough for me,” he said.
Whatever the reason for the generosity, Sakin Tumenbaeva, mother of the 100th patient, Alymbekov Amanbek, was appreciative of the support.
"Thank you to all who helped," Tumenbaeva said through an interpreter. "If it wasn't for you, I don't know who I could have turned to. I'm thankful for you all."
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jerome Baysmore is assigned to 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs.)