John F. Bonamo, Matt Oplinger, Missy Oplinger, Pam DePomo, Col. Jose Madera, Donna Clementoni and (front) Muslam Hagigshah Credits: Jessica Marrone Parkes
Muslam with his host "mom" and "brother" Missy and Matt Oplinger Credits: Jessica Marrone Parkes
Col. Alan Smith and Pamela DePomo Credits: Jessica Marrone Parkes
Missy Oplinger and Col. Alan Smith Credits: Jessica Marrone Parkes
Dr. Moneer Hanna and Col. Alan Smith Credits: Jessica Marrone Parkes
John. F. Bonamo and Col. Alan Smith Credits: Jessica Marrone Parkes
After Three-Year Medical Journey, St. Barnabas Sends Boy Home to Afghanistan
Monday, September 30, 2013 • 6:23pm
LIVINGSTON, NJ – On the afternoon of Sept. 30, New Jersey Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve and Saint Barnabas Medical Center hosted an afternoon entitled “Caring Hearts and Loving Hands” to celebrate the closure of a three-an-a-half year medical journey of a small boy from Jalalabad City in eastern Afghanistan and to honor his heroes.
During a tour in 2010, Major Glenn Battschinger of the United States Army met the mother of a six year old boy named Muslam Hagigshah who had been born with his bladder outside of his body. Mattschinger agreed to help Muslam’s mother find medical treatment, and after exhausting all local possibilities Mattschinger finally found help in the United States through Healing the Children.
Three years later, Muslam has just completed his last surgery and treatment at St. Barnabas Medical Center and is celebrating his restored health and saying goodbye to the team of people that made his surgery and stay in the U.S. possible.
“It is said to never underestimate the difference you can make in someone’s life,” said John F. Bonamo, MD, MS, president and chief executive officer of Saint Barnabas Medical Center. Bonamo opened the program by introducing the team of people involved in helping Muslam: Pamela DePomo of Healing the Children; Muslan’s host family, Missy Opligner and her son Matt Oplinger; “the guest of honor,” Muslam Hagigshah; Muslam’s doctor, Dr.Moneer Hanna, MD, Pediatric Urologist; Col. (ret.) Alan Smith, USMC, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve; and Col. Jose Magera (in attendance on behalf of Glenn Battschinger who was stuck in route from India).
Retired Col. Alan Smith was in attendance and spoke on behalf of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve to present the Seven Seals Award to DePomo on behalf of Healing the Children, Missy Oplinger on behalf of the Oplinger Family, Dr. Hanna, and Bonamo on behalf of the St. Barnabas Medical Staff.
The Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve is a committee inside the office of the
Secretary of Defense which recognizes employers for their outstanding support of the missions of military services.
Smith explained that the Seven Seals Award presented the seals of the: active army guard and air guard, as well as the reserve forces of the army, navy, air force, coast guard and marine guard. “These are those seven organizations that are out there helping you take care of America,” said Smith. “It’s for folks that have stepped up to do something special.”
“We are very gratified when someone like Major Glenn reaches out to us because our mission is to provide access to medical care and related services for children in need in New Jersey and worldwide,” said DePompo. “And when someone like Glenn approaches us and tells us about a child that needs assistance and we can do that, that helps us fulfill our mission. So we are so appreciative of that opportunity to change his (Muslam’s) life and to send him back home to his parents and his extended family with his good health and vitality. “
Missy Oplinger also expressed feelings of gratitude. “This is the highest honor that I have ever received. I just hope that this makes awareness that we need more host families. Ultimately there are a lot more children that need help out there.”
After receiving his reward, Dr. Moneer Hanna said, “Muslam is a very special boy. He happens to be one in 30,000 children who are born with a similar condition. I come from Egypt and this country has been very good to me. So I like to pay back and help children oversees as well as obviously local children. It is a great honor to be here.”
Hanna also expressed the feeling that he could not have accomplished such a series of surgeries without the help of the St. Barnabas staff, who was also presented with the Seven Seals Award and accepted by Bonamo.
After the award presentations, Muslam was served a piece of vanilla ice cream cake (his favorite) as he spent time hanging out with his heroes and host family, who are preparing to send him back to his family in Afghanistan sometime this fall, as a healthy boy.