Sometimes we take for granted or forget how accessible everything is here in America, such as medical care.
In Third World countries like Afghanistan, receiving medical attention is not so easy. Imagine one doctor for every 50,000 Afghanistan citizens, and medical treatment nowhere near as advanced as in the U.S.
That's where Solace for the Children of Lake Norman comes in.
Solace for the Children is a nonprofit organization that brings children from Afghanistan for a six-week summer program to receive medical, dental and optical care from U.S. physicians. Last year, the Solace LKN branch gave 21 Afghan children a better chance at health. This summer its planning to help another 20.
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Heather Ayris, vice president of the Solace LKN branch, knows firsthand what a difference the program makes in a child's life. She and her husband, Aaron, and their two sons, Cade and A.J., hosted a 9-year-old Afghan boy named Khai in 2009.
Khai, 11, has a condition called beta thalassemia major, a genetic blood disorder. He had been receiving blood transfusions in Afghanistan for years prior to coming to the U.S., but there was problem with a buildup of iron in Khai's body from the transfusions.
"Khai was getting the blood transfusions he needed but at the same time was getting poisoned with all the iron that was building up in his body," said Ayris. "They had no way to get the iron out of his body in Afghanistan.
"Here in the U.S., there's medicine that he takes to break down the iron."
Khai visits the Blume Pediatric hospital in Charlotte every three to four weeks, where he receives a blood transfusion. He also has what according to Ayris is "like an insulin pump that pumps medicine in his body 19 hours a day."
Khai also takes oral medications.
Because of the life-threatening blood disorder, Khai is now with the Ayris family in Harbor Cove in Mooresville indefinitely as part of Solace's extended program. His time here has been a journey "that has been nothing but rewarding," said Ayris.
Khai's medical visa doesn't allow for travel out of the country while he is here for treatment. He is a fourth-grader at Lake Norman Elementary School. A.J., 10, is also in the fourth grade, and Cade, 8, is in second grade.
"We went into this to help a child in need," Ayris said, "and we ended up getting so much more. Just to see these kids get so excited about seeing things like a roller coaster for the first time - stuff that doesn't exist in other parts of the world - and to see how happy it makes them is so rewarding."
Once the kids arrive for the summer program, they stay with local families who provide transportation to and from medical appointments. The local medical community and hospitals donate services.
While medical treatment is the main reason they are here, the summer is filled with various activities. In previous years, events were held at Carrigan Farms Quarry, Lake Norman YMCA in Davidson and Triple Cross Ranch.
Deborah Young Photography in Cornelius provides professional pictures of the children each year for the children to take home.