For the severely injured Syrian refugees that Handicap International cares for, like Abdallah, 11, the road to recovery is painful and uncertain. However, the physical rehabilitation that our staff provides ensures these most vulnerable victims of the crisis have the chance to recover part of their former selves.
Abdallah’s story starts like those of so many other wounded Syrians. He and his mother were out running errands in the city when they spotted fighter planes, and bombs starting raining down.
“Everything happened so quickly,” says Farida, Abdallah’s mother. “A lot of people around us died. When I lifted my head, Abdallah was on the ground and he looked terrified. At first, I thought he had thrown himself onto the ground because he was frightened. But then I understood that he had been hit. We took him to the closest hospital but he wasn’t operated on for many hours. The following day they told me my son would never walk again—he was paralyzed from the waist down.”
Leaving her husband and two older sons behind, Farida brought Abdallah and her four younger children to Lebanon, where they would be safe. Handicap International has been following the family ever since they arrived in September 2015.
On a cold day in January, Cynthia, a Handicap International’s physical therapist, begins the rehabilitation session with Abdallah in the family’s bedroom. She starts with a few stretching exercises. Abdullah seems unwilling and worried at first: he still suffers a lot, both physically and mentally. But little by little, Cynthia manages to gain his trust. He relaxes and even smiles a little when she asks him for a high five.
As she continues Abdallah’s therapy, Cynthia explains the family’s situation: “Farida doesn’t have much money so the family has had to move around a lot. Now they live in a free shelter for refugees. The only problem is that the only room available is on the fourth floor, so it’s very hard for Abdallah to go outside.”
Handicap International gave Abdallah a wheelchair so he can move around more easily. Cynthia gets Abdallah to do some exercises to help develop the muscles in his arms so he can better use his wheelchair. He is disappointed by his weakness.
Abdallah used to be very active and his favorite pastime was horse riding. “We had a horse on our farm in Syria,” says Abdallah. “But he’s dead now. The neighbors ate him because they were hungry.”
Farida listens carefully to her son and shares her concerns: “Our situation is so different now, but I want to do everything I can to make sure Abdullah has a bright future. I want my children to go to school at the start of the next school year.” For the moment, Abdullah spends his days indoors playing cards and other games with his brothers and sisters. He looks at his mother and says: “I’m looking forward to going back to school, too.”
Abdallah will continue physical therapy sessions with Handicap International, and will soon begin psychological counseling to help him accept his new life in Lebanon. Cynthia thinks his attitude is already changing for the better.
“A few months ago, Abdallah didn’t want to even think about school,” says Cynthia. “I’m glad to hear that he’s looking forward to going back. That means he’s made progress.” Abdullah smiles and does another high-five as his thirteenth physical therapy session comes to an end.