Often, even in the most horrific of circumstances, the positivity of children can be truly incredible. That is certainly the case for 12-year-old Abdel Rahman who, despite suffering terrible loss, is on his way to making a remarkable recovery. At Christmas time, we feel the hope and determination of this young boy even more strongly.
Abdel Rahman is sitting next to his father Ahmad in the family’s tent. The boy seems lost in thought as his parents describe what happened to them last May. “It was a Friday,” says Ahmad. “We were at home in Mosul eating breakfast when a missile fell on our house. Abdel Rahman was injured in the right leg and my other son died instantly...” His words trail off.
Shortly after the accident, Ahmad and his family tried to flee the city several times. As the battleground shifted, they were forced to move from district to district. “After a few days, I noticed that Abdel Rahman’s leg was turning blue all over. When we eventually got to hospital, his condition was much worse already.”
Doctors operated on him six times in an attempt to save his leg. But it was too late. “I had a feeling he might need an amputation. I looked at his leg and, deep down, I knew,” says Ahmad. “He was the one who finally told the doctors to amputate his leg.”
Mohammad changes the dressing on Abdel Rahman's wound while his father Ahmed looks on.
© William Daniels/HI
Emotional first steps
In early June, Ahmad and his family left the hospital and travelled to Hasansham camp where they met Handicap International’s physiotherapist, Mohammad. Today he is visiting Abdel Rahman for his third physiotherapy session.
Before they begin, he asks how the boy is feeling. Abdel Rahman is still finding it hard to adjust: “We try to help him control his temper and take his mind off things”, says Ahmad. “He plays with other children and we joke around. But sometimes he looks sad and screams and says his leg hurts.” It won’t be long before Handicap International’s psychologist pays them a visit, Mohammad reassures them.
Torn between the phantom pain in his lost limb and the need to salvage his pride in front of his family, Abdel Rahman doesn’t seem to know whether to laugh or cry as he does his rehabilitation exercises. When Mohammad asks him to stand up using the crutches he received from HI, he says he can’t. Eventually though, he agrees.
They finish with some balancing exercises. Abdel Rahman closes his eyes and, for the first time, he seems to relax. His breathing slows and his tears and laughter dissolve into silence and concentration. His family watch him and then clap in encouragement as he stands on his left leg for a few seconds. He smiles. It’s the first time he has managed to stand up and take a step forward since he arrived in the camp.