Kathleen Battschinger received a call at her Mays Landing home last year with an unusual request.
A doctor was needed to help a 6-year-old boy in Afghanistan who was born with his bladder outside his body.
Battschinger's son, Army Maj. Glenn Battschinger, of Mays Landing, was on foot patrol in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in April 2010 when he came across Muslam Hagigshah, who was bowlegged and held his leaking bladder in his hand.
She said her son told her the boy was begging for help along a street with his mother.
"Glenn really felt he had to do something for this child," she said Friday. "He couldn't live life how he was."
Battschinger said she went through several organizations before contacting the New Jersey branch of Healing the Children, a nonprofit organization that donates medical care to children around the world. Last summer the group contacted Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, and Dr. Moneer Hanna, a pediatric urologist who has performed more than 150 such procedures. Both agreed instantly to treat Muslam free of charge.
Three months later, the boy landed at Newark Liberty International Airport. Muslam stayed in Summit with a foster family that has begun to teach him English and enrolled him in kindergarten.
"He is absolutely in heaven," Kathleen Battschinger said. "He loves this country and his village loves the Americans for what we're doing for him."
Glenn Battschinger, a Civil Affairs officer, said his unit was assigned to set up the government and rebuild the region.
Helping the child was part of his mission, he said.
"This child represented an opportunity for us to do good and show ordinary Afghans compassion of what is out there beyond their city walls," he said. "This was a contribution of many ordinary Americans who answered a call from far away. This is indicative of support Americans are giving Americans. It's phenomenal so many people are behind our effort to secure ourselves and our children's future. I'm grateful to everyone out there who is supporting us."
The soldier had seen the boy several times since he returned home last November but the two reconnected again Friday. It was the first time the soldier met the surgeon and hospital staff.
At a ceremony Friday at the hospital, a grinning Muslam was wheeled in from the room where he has been recovering from a second surgery performed a week ago. As he beamed at the oversized chocolate cake marking his recovery, Muslam leaned forward in his wheelchair to tell reporters - in English - that his favorite sport is lacrosse, which his foster brother has been teaching him.
Hanna thinks Muslam will recover and function normally. The abnormality Muslam was born with affects one in 40,000 babies, he said, but occurs more frequently in the Middle East than in the West.
Glenn Battschinger said he knew the boy would receive this level of care and is not surprised at all to see how well he's doing.
"This never would have happened in Afghanistan," he said. "He would have died."
Battschinger served in the U.S. Army for 12 years before he was discharged in 1994. He was recomissioned in 2008 and served his tour between November 2009 and November 2010.
"It was a calling. I wanted to serve my country in a time of war," the 49-year-old said. "I felt I was still young enough and I wanted to give to this effort."
Battschinger grew up in Atlantic Highlands but his family moved to Mays Landing 10 years ago. He has two sons, Gregory, 14, and Cedric, 12, who live in the township.
Kathleen Battschinger said her son was always concerned about helping the people he met overseas and was not surprised he took such initiative for the young boy.
"He surprises us every day of his life. He never takes no for an answer," she said. "Sometimes that's not good, but in this case it was very good."
And he is not done with his efforts.
Battschinger plans to accompany the boy back to Afghanistan in four to six months, once his recovery is complete. The major will make the trip as a civilian and will help drill two water wells near Muslam's home in Jalalabad.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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