Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

On an early August morning inside a dimly lighted hospital room, Arefa smiles as Jami Valentine rummages through her knapsack to find her iPad to entertain the little girl.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Arefa, in tears, clings to Jami Valentine and begs her not to let the medical team take her to the operating room.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Sedated on propofol, Arefa lies on an operating table while doctors prepare to examine and clean her skin graft. Her burn scars keep her eyes from closing, even when she sleeps.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Dr. John Lorant, far left, and the rest of the medical team prepare to examine the success of Arefa's skin graft.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

An operating room surgical nurse applies a disinfectant to Arefa's skin graft.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

After her skin graft surgery, a frightened Arefa cries out for Jami Valentine, one of her temporary caretakers in the U.S., to comfort her.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Staci Freeman, left, and her sister Jami Valentine try to comfort Arefa shortly after her skin graft surgery.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Arefa conveys her pain level by pointing to faces on a chart that resembled how she feels.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

It didn't take long for Arefa's personality to emerge -- a mix of spunk and angst. She spent hours at playgrounds, smiling nonstop. But she grew tense whenever she saw TV images of helicopters and war.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

In their two-bedroom apartment in El Segundo, the sisters giggle with Arefa over distorted photographs of one another on an iPad.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Arefa cries softly as she anticipates having to take a bath. At bedtime, when her injured scalp was washed, she often wailed so loudly that the sisters worried someone in their apartment building might call the police.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Jami comforts a crying Arefa, who wails in pain after bumping her head.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Over time, her skin graft began to heal and Arefa no longer felt pain when she washed her scalp. However. there was the future. The sisters worried constantly about how Arefa would be treated once she went home, growing into womanhood in Afghanistan with such obvious scars.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Arefa wears a pair of swimming goggles given to her by Jami Valentine so the girl could put her face underwater in the bathtub.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Nahida Shinwari, left, who provides volunteer translation services for the Afghan children who had come to the U.S. for treatment, shows Arefa a stuffed animal during a group outing with host families.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Sisters Heelai and Malalai Shinwari choose a henna pattern to decorate Arefa's feet and hands during religious festivities.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Arefa attends services at a mosque with her host sisters Jami Valentine and Staci Freeman and with the Shinwari family.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

In November, Arefa had another appointment with Dr. John Lorant, right. When he removed her cap, there was good news: The skin graft had healed, and he said she could go home.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Arefa's birthday falls in January, but she asked the sisters if she could celebrate with them in December to honor her seventh year. The sisters granted her wish and hosted a Hello Kitty party at Chuck E. Cheese's in her honor.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

During a farewell ceremony with their host families, children cry before heading home to Afghanistan. For Arefa the expected six weeks had stretched into five months. She would not be going home just yet to Kabul with the rest of her group.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

Arefa gobbles up a soft ice cream cone -- one of her favorite treats after a visit to the doctor. She began tracking her time left in the U.S. by marking a calendar. "Eight more sleeps!" she exclaimed near the end of her stay.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

On a Wednesday near Christmas, Arefa's bags are stacked by the door as she prepares to finally catch a plane home to Afghanistan. Her father was to meet her in Kabul.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

At the airport, Jami Valentine tries to hold back her own tears as Arefa cries during their goodbye. Valentine and her sister, Staci Freeman, didn't know if they would ever hear from Arefa, whom they helped for about six months, again.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

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A healing bond: Sisters open hearts, home to burned Afghan girl

Two sisters open their home and hearts, agreeing to care for Arefa, an Afghan child who was sent to Los Angeles for medical care after being severely burned. The experience changes all three lives.

Read the full story by Kurt Streeter “Forging a delicate and healing bond

1 Comment

  1. March 20, 2013, 7:07 pm

    ANGLES ARE VERY MUCH IN THE WORLD! THANK EACH AND EVERYONE INVOLVED–I THANK GOD FOR YOU

    By: sosuem_2@yahoo.com

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