Lake Norman medical offices offer free treatment

MOORESVILLE – Zaman Rashid is a 22-year-old student at Central Piedmont Community College.

Originally from Farah, Afghanistan, he visited the United States in 2007 to get a free surgery that Solace for the Children offered him. Rashid suffered from a tumor in his left sinus.  

“I had multiple surgeries in Pakistan because in Afghanistan, they couldn’t do surgeries for me,” he said. “In Pakistan, the doctors hurt my soft palate doing the surgery, so I couldn’t speak normally or eat or drink normally. At the same time, the tumor would grow again, and I would bleed.” 

That first surgery eliminated the tumor. Another in 2009 repaired damage done to his soft palate.

“The hope basically ran back through my veins,” he said. “And by then, I had learned some English because I was motivated again. I wanted to help.”

Rashid now serves as a translator for Solace for the Children, a nonprofit begun by Mooresville couple Dick and Patsy Wilson in 1997. Solace offers free medical services to the children of war-torn countries in six-week summer intervals.

This year, 21 7-to-12 year-old Afghani children journeyed thousands of miles for healing.

Rashid, who is studying international business and politics in the hopes of becoming governor of his province, accompanied 13-year-old Menhaj Shadab to Davis Spine Associates in Mooresville for a spine screening June 28.

Menhaj is staying with Julie Crandall’s family during part of his visit.

“I love the relationships you develop and just learning so much about the kids,” Crandall said. “The people, the culture, the religion, and sharing ours with them.”

Dr. Paul Davis examined the children who came to his office for congenital defects like scoliosis and injuries that might have come from falls or bombings. 

“Everyone is so nice,” Menhaj said. “Everyone is being so loving,”

Menhaj’s lower back gives him trouble sometimes, especially when he climbs stairs. Crandall told Davis that he might have muscular dystrophy. Davis saw signs of scoliosis when he examined Menhaj’s back.

“He doesn’t have a condition right now that warrants treatment, but it warrants observation,” Davis said. “That’s why I want to check him in four weeks again.” 

Sandy Tabor-Gray, director of Solace’s Lake Norman branch, said watching children’s scars heal and witnessing them befriending others from their homeland during mixers is what makes her role so fulfilling.

“So much of the warring that goes on in Afghanistan is tribal; it’s between the people,” she said. “We’ve learned through experience that these children we chose from all over Afghanistan wouldn’t have been able to associate with each other. Solace breaks down differences, focuses on what’s the same between them, builds trust and cooperation and sends them home with friends.”

Solace has branches in Mooresville; Los Angeles; Spokane, Wash.; Southern Pines; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Columbus, Ohio. There’s a paid national director for Solace based in Kabul, but in America, everyone works as a volunteer. This means that just about every penny donated goes directly to the children, Tabor-Gray said.

Sometimes, hospitals workers in Afghanistan recommend children that they believe could benefit from the program. U.S. military personnel may also offer leads. 

“They’re the ones that are out in villages and working with tribal leaders,” Tabor-Gray said. “When they come across these children, they can say, ‘We know an organization that can help, and it won’t cost you anything. The healing speaks for itself. Their family members see what’s happening and talk to those in their communities, and the trust gets built up.” 

All visiting children receive an eye screening and physical, including blood work. Novant Health Huntersville has donated operating rooms to the cause, as well. 

Dr. Mike Assell opened the doors of Advanced Family Eye Care Center in Denver on June 14 to perform eye screenings.

“We usually extend our normal business hours for the children to come as a group,” he said. “We provide glasses when needed at our cost and also help make referrals for surgical evaluations if necessary.”

He enjoys seeing two cultures bridged through medicine.  

“By bringing children with medical needs and having them live and interact with caring American families, seeds of peace are hopefully planted as these children return to their homes,” he said. 

Want to help?

Solace for the Children LKN allows children, ages 7 to 12, to live with host families while receiving free medical treatment for wounds or chronic illnesses. Visit www.s4tc.org or email sandy.tabor_gray@solaceforthechildren.org.