A 6-year-old girl, shot and left for dead by the Taliban in Afghanistan earlier this year, received free reconstructive surgery at a Long Island hospital Friday.
"She's OK. All is good, thank God!" said Elissa Montanti of the Global Medical Relief Fund. The nonprofit children's organization, based on Staten Island, helped bring Marizeh to the U.S. after the attack that cost the girl her right eye.
Taliban fighters ambushed Marizeh's family as they drove home in a remote, unidentified region of Afghanistan last spring, said Montanti.
Her father tried to hide the girl under his feet inside the family car but she was shot in the face, after watching both her father and brother murdered.
"They thought she had died. She was there for three hours before she was discovered," said Marizeh's doctor, Kaveh Alizadeh.
The plastic surgeon, who founded a nonprofit group that provides medical care to needy children, first heard Marizeh's story during a trip to Afghanistan.
On Friday, Alizadeh performed surgery on Marizeh at South Nassau Communities hospital to help repair lingering damage to her breathing and facial structure. She had previously been fitted with a temporary prosthetic eye.
The medical care should have cost upwards of $100,000, Alizadeh said; but in this case, it was all done for free.
"To think about the trauma she’s been through and to see her come down and have a smile on her face, it’s unbelievable," said hospital COO Joseph LaMantia.
Marizeh is expected to leave the Oceanside hospital this weekend and return to the Global Medical Relief Fund's headquarters in Staten Island. It's unclear when she will go home to Afghanistan. Montanti won't reveal Marizeh's last name or hometown, for fear the Taliban will target her again.
"If they know the Americans are helping them, it's dangerous. So we have to be cautious," Montanti said.
For all who helped Marizeh, it was a danger worth facing, to restore a little girl's smile.
"She is a very happy little girl, a lovely girl," Montanti said.