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Bomb left Kosovo siblings with more than physical injuries

Besart was bothered Thursday by bright lights and needles -- limiting what doctors could determine about his injuries

CNN's Jennifer Auther reports on the arrival and initial treatment in California of two Kosovo bombing victims.
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Rebuilding Kosovo
Focus on Kosovo

Both in California for medical treatment

July 2, 1999
Web posted at: 10:41 a.m. EDT (1441 GMT)

In this story:

'So traumatized'

'I'm going to ask God to help me'


From Correspondent Jennifer Auther

SANTA BARBARA, California (CNN) -- His nearly blown-off face hidden under bandages, a 12-year-old Kosovo boy injured by a NATO bomb is in California for medical treatment, but Besart Ahmetaj's trauma seems as much psychological as it is physical.

"No needles," and "Get the light out of my face," the upset boy tells doctors at St. Francis Medical Center in Santa Barbara, squirming under the sheets of a hospital bed.

Even after more than 24 hours of travel from his home, Besart -- his facial wounds infected -- fought sedatives enough to limit an initial physical exam after his arrival Thursday in the United States.

Dr. John Padilla, leading a surgical reconstruction team, says his best evaluation of the young patient won't come until Besart is under anesthesia, possibly on Saturday.

'So traumatized'

Only Besart's family knows what he looks like beneath the bandage he wears diagonally across his mutilated face, covering his right eye and stretching to his left cheek.

"The young boy is so traumatized, he has absolutely no clue what's going on, and I don't even know where to begin to tell him what's going on," Padilla says.

In the same hospital room with Besart, just on the other side of a curtain, lies his older sister, Lulietu, 19.

Padilla is leading the surgical reconstruction team
249 K/9 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

She, too, was maimed May 14 when a misdirected NATO bomb exploded in their home town of Korisa, killing dozens of ethnic Albanians. Among the dead were Besart and Lulietu's mother and two other family members.

Besart still asks to see his mother. No one has the courage to tell him she is dead.

'I'm going to ask God to help me'

During Lulietu's initial exam, she proves more cooperative than her brother, allowing the doctors to exam her facial wounds and fractured right leg.

In broken English, an interpreter relays Lulietu's thoughts: "She wishes it doesn't happen to anybody, what happened to her family."

Dr. Michael Paveloff, an eye surgeon, will try to assess if the siblings' eyesight can be restored. "I'm more optimistic for her than I am for her brother," he tells CNN.

Other doctors -- specialists in infectious diseases, orthopedic surgery and child psychology -- also are part of the team. All the doctors have donated their time and skills.

And, adds Padilla, "I'm going to ask God to help me."

Kosovar brother, sister injured in NATO bombing arrive in U.S. for treatment
July 1, 1999
German troops find more evidence of atrocities in Kosovo
July 1, 1999
Badly injured Kosovo siblings en route to California for surgery
July 1, 1999
NATO bombing victims head to U.S. for treatment
June 30, 1999
U.N. human rights commissioner worried about Kosovo
June 30, 1999

St. Francis Medical Center (Santa Barbara)

  • Federal Republic of Yugoslavia official site
      • Kesovo and Metohija facts
  • Serbia Ministry of Information
  • Serbia Now! News

  • Kosova Crisis Center
  • Kosova Liberation Peace Movement
  • Kosovo - from

  • World Relief
  • Doctors without borders
  • U.S. Agency for International Development (Kosovo aid)
  • Doctors of the World
  • InterAction
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Kosovo Humanitarian Disaster Forces Hundreds of Thousands from their Homes
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Kosovo Relief
  • ReliefWeb: Home page
  • The Jewish Agency for Israel
  • Mercy International

  • Expanded list of related sites on Kosovo
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