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Sam Penrod ReportingA Utah solider back in the states for a few days on leave from Afghanistan is getting to see firsthand one of his most important missions -- an eleven year old Afghani boy get life saving heart surgery.
The eleven-year old Afghan boy is in Loma Linda, California today for heart surgery. His journey here started with a Utah soldier several months ago, as he and other members of the 211 Aviation unit of Apache helicopters based in West Jordan adopted his village.
Layne Pace , 211 Aviation Regiment: “His father approached us numerous times, asking for help. It was difficult to determine his problem. He was synoptic, dark in color, and didn’t do well when he ran with other kids.”
On another trip to the village a military cardiologist diagnosed the boy with a heart defect.
Layne Pace: "We knew what he had, we knew what we had to do, just didn't know how we'd be able to do it. So we stated a little campaign, several of us with a series of e-mails to family and friends back here in Utah to see if anyone was willing to help with surgery."
Pace found numerous people all over the country who were willing to help.
Layne Pace: "Getting a hospital to donate all that money, a doctor to donate services and transportation donated, and someone to adopt them here to take care of their needs is a lot to ask of people. But that happened very quickly."
The real challenge, Pace says, was getting government visas and passports, which took the help of US Senators to make it happen. Pace coincidentally had scheduled leave months ago and met his new friends in California this week, before the life saving surgery.
Layne Pace: "It's a huge sigh of relief. A lot of us have been working on this for some months. We spend most of our off hours or the time we are not flying missions or doing our other jobs on this, it's great to see it come about."
And so was the phone call Layne Pace got this afternoon, that the surgery was a success.
When Layne Pace and the rest of the 211 Aviation Regiment finish their Afghanistan deployment in May, Pace will return to his job as a battalion chief in the Orem Fire Department.