Admir Oputar thought the land mine lying in his Bosnian backyard in 1995 might be a toy.
When he picked it up, his new toy exploded, mutilating the hands of the then nine-year-old boy. Doctors there tried to repair the damage, but were limited by the country's primitive surgical equipment.
Now, doctors at the Hand Center of Western New York, based at Millard Fillmore Health Systems in Buffalo, are donating their time to reconstruct one of Admir's hands, using a technique that will graft his second toe onto his left hand to replace his missing thumb.
Admir spent the summer in Waterport, thanks to the World Life Institute, a small foundation that brings children from war-ravaged countries to Western New York for a summer of recreational and educational activities.
"I hope things will get better in Bosnia, but I am glad to be here," he said through an interpreter at the Hand Center.
Admir will remain in the United States at least through November, when doctors at the Hand Center will perform the operation.
Dr. Clayton Peimer, who is also a professor of orthopedic surgery at the University at Buffalo, and Dr. Owen Moy will perform the bulk of the surgery.
"We will be able to hook up nerves, sensation and mobility," Moy said.
Over the next three months, Peimer will work with Admir on loosening the tendons and joints in his hand, to prepare for the surgery.
Peimer said the toe-hand transfer surgery was first performed in the early 1970s, and that the Hand Center physicians are the only ones in Western New York who do the operation. He estimated that within three months of the operation, Admir will have "reasonably useful motion," from his reconstructed hand, and should be able to have sensation within a year.
Admir's father was killed in war-time fighting, and his mother is emotionally disturbed, his translator said. Still, she said, Admir likes riding bicycles, and rooted for Brussels in the recent World Cup soccer tournament.
While Admir is one of nine children here this summer -- six from Bosnia, two from Chechnya and one from South Africa -- he is the only one to require serious surgical help, and the only one who will remain here when the summer is over, said Detta Drake, the treasurer of the World Life Institute.
The organization is supported by donations from corporations and individuals.