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Repairing the human damage of war

Doctors begin to treat siblings Besart and Lulietu Ahmetaj, who were severely wounded by a NATO bomb blast in Kosovo

Focus on Kosovo

July 3, 1999
Web posted at: 11:22 a.m. EDT (1522 GMT)

By Correspondent Jennifer Auther

SANTA BARBARA, California (CNN) -- Prospects were brighter this weekend for two survivors of a NATO bomb blast in Kosovo in May: Both are now in California, where doctors have volunteered to treat their serious injuries.

Doctors at St. Francis Medical Center in Santa Barbara aren't allowing reporters to see the patients, but did offer some indication of their conditions and their upcoming treatment.

A CAT scan has allowed the doctors to learn more about the wounds to 12-year-old Besart Ahmetaj's face.

"Some of the internal nasal anatomy is still there," said plastic surgeon Dr. John Padilla III. "The maxillary sinuses -- which is the hollow part of your facial bone -- are open; and the right eye appears to be gone."

Padilla has put both Besart and his 19-year-old sister, Lulietu, on tailored antibiotic regimens to fight wound infections.

Besart and his sister were severely wounded May 14, when an errant NATO bomb exploded in their village of Korisa, in western Kosovo. No one there could repair their injuries.

Lulietu's fractured leg remains in its original cast, but eye surgeon Michael Paveloff has had an opportunity to better examine her.

"Because of the blunt trauma to her eye, she has sustained damage to the back part of her eye, which has caused a bad scar, which has now made her vision poor," he said. "Unfortunately, the scar is inoperable."

Some CNN viewers, moved by Besart's condition, decided to help. Through charitable organizations, they arranged free surgery for the siblings, and doctors said they have been struck by their resiliency.

"I was tickled ... when (Besart) saw himself on television and he jumped out of bed and began to call for his sister and asked her to come watch television with him," Padilla said.

No date has been set for the series of reconstructive facial surgeries that lie ahead. Padilla says Besart's definitive examination can only occur with the boy under anesthesia, which isn't likely to happen until next week.

Until then, Padilla said, his main objective is to try to see that Besart and Lulietu know that they are safe and in good hands.

Bomb left Kosovo siblings with more than physical injuries
July 2, 1999
Kosovar brother, sister injured in NATO bombing arrive in U.S. for treatment
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

  • 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

  • NATO official site
  • BosniaLINK - U.S. Dept. of Defense
  • U.S. Navy images from Operation Allied Force
  • U.K. Ministry of Defence - Kosovo news
  • U.K. Royal Air Force - Kosovo news
  • Jane's Defence - Kosovo Crisis

Resettlement Agencies Helping Kosovars in U.S.:
  • Church World Service
  • Episcopal Migration Ministries
  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
  • Iowa Department of Human Services
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Immigration and Refugee Services of America
  • Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
  • United States Catholic Conference

  • 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

  • Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
  • Independent Yugoslav radio stations B92
  • Institute for War and Peace Reporting
  • United States Information Agency - Kosovo Crisis

  • Expanded list of related sites on Kosovo
  • 1997 view of Kosovo from space - Eurimage
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