Marzia Zada, an Afghan girl shot by the Taliban in 2012, thanks doctors on LI. NewsdayTV's Macy Egeland reports. Credit: Anthony Florio

Marzia Zada has shed enough tears for a lifetime.

More than a decade ago, Zada, then 5, was shot in the face and left for dead by the Taliban in Afghanistan, only moments after witnessing the brutal execution of her father and younger brother. 

Zada survived, but among her injuries was scarring of the tear duct below her right eye, creating an infection that caused a near-nonstop flow of tears.

Last month, Zada, now 17, returned to Long Island — she had reconstructive surgery in Oceanside in late 2012 — for a two-hour procedure at Cohen Children's Medical Center to restore drainage down into the nasal passage. 

On Wednesday, Zada returned to the New Hyde Park hospital to show appreciation to the medical staff that helped bring an end to the endless tears.

"In Afghanistan, wherever I go, I see people look at me and laugh," Zada, who speaks only limited English, said of her injuries. "And here I feel happy."

In 2012, Zada's family was ambushed by the Taliban as they traveled in their vehicle. Zada's father tried to shield his daughter, even offering his life if they spared hers, but she was shot in the left cheek and left to die. Her father and 3-year-old brother were murdered.

The bullet exited Zada's right temple, causing the loss of her right eye. U.S. doctors have since implanted a prosthetic eye.

With surgeons in Afghanistan unable to repair Zada's injuries, she was brought to the United States later in 2012 by the Global Medical Relief Fund, which assists young victims of wars and disasters.

Her initial surgery at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital helped repair her face and allowed her to breathe through her nose. Without the procedure, Zada's face would be unable to grow and expand vertically, doctors said at the time. 

Zada returned to her home in northern Afghanistan but continued to deal with both discomfort and constant leaking from her tear duct. Typically, tears drain from the eye into the nasal passage, but for Zada the tears had no place to go, medical officials said.

Last November, more than a year after U.S. troops pulled out of Taliban-led Afghanistan, the relief organization arranged to bring Zada and her sister Fatima, 23, back to New York. The pair currently live on the grounds of the Staten Island-based nonprofit.

"It's been a real challenge to get her here. And to see the reality of today is so gratifying because I know it's going to make a difference for Marzia," said Elissa Montanti, founder and director of the relief group. "So it's really wonderful."

On Oct. 30, Zada had a two-hour endoscopic dacryocystorhinostomy surgery at Cohen Children's to restore the flow of tears into the nose. The surgery was provided at no cost to Zada and her family.

Marzia Zada is flanked by Elissa Montanti, founder and director...

Marzia Zada is flanked by Elissa Montanti, founder and director of the Global Medical Relief Fund, and Dr. Mark Chaskes at Cohen Children's Medical Center on Wednesday. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

"For the last 10 years, she's just had tears pouring down the right side of her face," said Dr. Mark Chaskes, an ear, nose and throat physician at Cohen Children's, who performed the surgery. "And the goal of the surgery was to reestablish tear duct drainage into her nose so that she can essentially stop tearing constantly."

Zada was able to leave the hospital only hours after surgery and her tear duct is now working normally, Chaskes said.

The future for Zada, who is hoping to one day pursue a career in medicine, remains uncertain. 

Montanti said it's unclear whether Zada will be allowed to stay in the United States as the rest of her family lives in Afghanistan.

"In spite of everything that she has been through," Montanti said, "she's happy and she's resilient." 

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