Before 7-year-old Azad had the hole in heart fixed, running made his nails and lips turn blue. Going to school made them turn blue. Eating made them turn blue. His heart was unable to supply enough oxygen to his blood, making simple tasks very difficult for him.
Now Azad begs his mom for cakes and munches enthusiastically while rough-housing with his brother. He runs wild laps around the courtyard outside his family's home in Kabul, Afghanistan, his arms out-stretched like an airplane -- he wants to be a pilot when he grows up.
"Before the surgery he could not eat so well. His nails and lips would start to get darker. He couldn't play with the other children," said Azad's father, through a translator. "We sent him to school but it was so hard for him -- he always had to take breaks."
Azad was born with a congenital heart defect. He would likely die if it could not be surgically repaired. There were no doctors and no hospitals in Afghanistan that could help him; but that's when Azad's parents found Solace for the Children.
Azad was one of nearly 60 Afghan children who traveled to the United States this summer for medical care. Solace arranged for Azad's transport to a Solace Community where he stayed with an American host family, and received his surgery from Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
Azad returned to Kabul in August with a healthier heart and two huge suitcases stuffed with medications and a year's supply of baby aspirin. Employees in Solace's Kabul office helped Azad's parents understand how and when to give him medicine.
"Now, it's better. We are so happy," Azad's father said, smiling.
When asked about his time in the U.S., Azad doesn't mention anything about the surgery. Instead he says, bashfully, with newly-learned English words: "I like ice cream." His favorite flavor? "Chocolate." From now on it will be ice cream -- not running, playing or studying -- that turns Azad's lips blue.