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California doctors operate on badly injured Kosovo teen

Besart and Lilietu Ahmetaj
Doctors at St. Francis Medical Center in Santa Barbara began to heal the wounds of Besart, top, and Lulietu Ahmetaj on Monday

CNN's Greg LaMotte reports on the brother and sister and their prospects for recovery
Windows Media 28K 80K
Focus on Kosovo

Brother undergoes eye surgery Tuesday

July 5, 1999
Web posted at: 9:28 p.m. EDT (0128 GMT)

SANTA BARBARA, California (CNN) -- With shattered bones and severely injured faces, Besart Ahmetaj and his sister Lulietu left their native Kosovo last week for medical treatment in the United States by doctors touched by their story.

On Monday, physicians at St. Francis Medical Center in Santa Barbara began the tedious task of healing those wounds. Lulietu, 19, underwent surgery to remove infected portions of bone in her right leg, which was fractured by shrapnel.

"We got down to good bleeding bone. Hopefully the next time we go, the tissue will still be viable and we'll be able to bone graft into this area again," said Dr. Jeff Holstein, an orthopedic surgeon.

Lulietu also needs extensive surgery to repair wounds to her face and right eye. Dr. Michael Paveloff, an eye surgeon, will try to assess if her eyesight can be restored.

"I'm more optimistic for her then I am for her brother," he told CNN on Friday.

Besart and Lulietu were maimed May 14 when a NATO bomb exploded in the town of Korisa, killing dozens of ethnic Albanians, including their mother and two other families.

Besart's right eye was nearly destroyed in the attack. The 12-year-old is scheduled to undergo exploratory surgery on Tuesday.

Other doctors -- specialists in infectious diseases and child psychology -- are also part of the extensive team providing free care to the siblings.

Besart has been particularly traumatized by the ordeal. Despite the use of sedatives, the upset boy squirmed so much during his initial physical exam that doctors could not determine the full extent of his injuries.

Besart still asks to see his mother, but no one has had the courage to tell him she is dead.

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

Correspondents Greg LaMotte and Jennifer Auther contributed to this report.

Repairing the human damage of war
July 3, 1999
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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