SAN DIEGO - Within a year most U.S. troops with have withdrawn from Afghanistan, but for so many soldiers and humanitarians who have spent time there, there are images and people hard to leave behind.
10News Anchor Steve Atkinson met a young Afghan girl that cannot be forgotten and with the help of some very generous San Diegans, her life is about to change.
This is the story of a beautiful 14-year-old Afghan girl. It is also the story of a team of San Diego humanitarians determined to change her life.
Khalida Kashmeer's has lived just about every day of her life with a giant tumor on the left side of her face.
"Her condition is called Neurofibromatosis Type 1," says Kim Guevara-Harris, who is with the San Diego Chapter of International Orphan Care.
Khalida was born with it. They are tumors that grow along nerves in the skin, brain and other parts of the body. The tumors are usually treated in early childhood in developed countries, but in Afghanistan, Khalida's condition deteriorated. It got so bad that she was forced to quit school. A video was taken shortly after she quit school in a plea from her mother for help.
"Khalida doesn't go to school," says her mother through an interpreter. "Well, she was at school, but her classmates were laughing at her. That's why she quit school."
Khalida was discovered by a team from International Orphan Care, a nonprofit specializing in cases like Khalida's. The group spent three years just trying to bring her to San Diego for treatment. When she finally was granted permission to leave Afghanistan, Guevara-Harris and her team only had a 21-day window to complete all the proper documents, secure flights and arrange an interpreter to fly with the 14-year-old who had never been on a plane, much less outside Jalabad, Afghanistan.
But once she arrived, there were more problems.
"It was discovered she had a glioma tumor in the brain stem and so that was the number one priority," added Shelley Matthess, the clinical coordinator with Fresh Start.
It was a tumor that could have killed her within months, but a team of volunteer surgeons with Fresh Start in association with Rady Children's Hospital removed the tumor in October.
Khalida will undergo another major surgery with Fresh Start in January to remove the tumor on her face. It is a surgery that will dramatically change her life.
Khalida, speaking through her interpreter and San Diego IOC Director Sadaf Amini, said with a smile, "I'm really excited and want to be able to go back to Afghanistan and be educated and learn and hopefully be able to teach others."
Guevara-Harris, who has spent years following Khalida's progress, added, "There's just so much she can do and she has a future and that's just so important."
Because of her experience, Khalida says she wants to go to medical school one day. It is an opportunity she would never have without those generous San Diegans.
All of the surgeons and nurses are volunteers but there are still costs that have to be covered.
If you would like to learn more about Khalida and how to donate to her cause click here (mobile users: http://on.fb.me/Ij9jHc), or visit the Fresh Start website (mobile users: http://bit.ly/1bR8eNB). Please place for "Khalida Kashmeer" in the comment section.
Click here to learn more about Fresh Start (mobile users: http://bit.ly/17Pnf4H)