Curran grew up in Kings Park, N.Y., outside Manhattan. He retains the accent, which flavors the few words of Dari he uses with cheerful and reckless abandon. “Tashakool!” he cries, an approximation of “Thanks.” “C’mon ovah hee-yah! How ya feelin’?” Minima smiles shyly and the other kids crowd forward. Children in Afghanistan are unself-conscious about disfiguring wounds. So is Curran. He finds a package of antibiotics for Minima’s healing eye socket. “Hee-yah—four times a day—uh, chal dhal! Dhal, um chal, right?” He chuckles. “OK! Who’s next?” Curran, 38, had toyed with declaring himself a pacifist in high school, but decided he had a responsibility to the world’s oppressed. He went to West Point and fought as a tank officer in Desert Storm. That wasn’t “wholesome” enough, so he got into medical school, weathered a heart attack and plunged into life as an Army emergency-room doctor. “Ya gotta live life to the fullest!” he says, grinning.
“I saw a little boy in here the other day with polio, 6 years old and
crippled. I was telling him about Franklin Roosevelt, trying to encourage
him.” Then a girl desperately needing a liver transplant. “She’d had hepatitis.
Her father had been told there was medicine that would make her well. No.
She needed millions of dollars for a transplant at a top-notch U.S. facility,”
Curran says. “I had to tell her father, ‘Your daughter is going to die.”’