Republish this article
1st October 2015

My daughter lost her leg in a bomb blast’

Hasan’s daughters, Duaa and Shahd, were aged just one and four years old, respectively, when a rocket hit their house in Syria. Now doctors at a clinic in Jordan are working to rehabilitate them and hundreds of other victims of war.

The impact on the girls’ lives was profound. Duaa, who had been playing the street when she was suddenly covered in rubble, lost a leg. Her sister Shahd had a shattered knee and suffered serious psychological trauma.

Duaa now wears a prosthetic limb while Shahd is coming to terms with the horror she witnessed during her family’s time living in the shadow of the Syrian war.

As soon as the girls were strong enough, Hasan and his family left Syria for Jordan, just a few kilometres across the border. Every week for the last two years, they have travelled to a specialist clinic in Amman, the Jordanian capital, where doctors from Médecins Sans Frontières provide long-term care for complex war injuries.

As Duaa grows, she needs her prosthetic limb adjusted and works with a physiotherapist to improve her movement. She has had a tough start to life but, with the right medical care, she has a chance to thrive.

Surgeons and therapists from the region treat people with severe burns, facial injuries and limb damage. Up to a fifth of patients are children.

Iraqi orthopaedic surgeon Dr Rashid Farqui has been involved in the clinic since it was set up in 2006. He describes the complexity of the cases he sees, often with injuries caused by explosions or bullets.

Complex surgery

One of the more complex cases is that of Mohammed, a young man from Homs, Syria. He lost his lower jaw in an explosion and was lucky to survive.

“I could only eat fluids for five months; I had to lie down to eat,” he explains.

Although he was patched up in a field hospital after the incident, providing a long-term solution will require several surgical procedures.

Mohammed’s surgeon, Dr Ashraf, devised a lengthy and complex – but ultimately life-changing – course of surgery and treatments that would give the young war victim a shot at a normal life.

First, the surgeon joined Mohammed’s lower jaw bone together with a titanium plate. He then cut a strip of muscle from the chest to cover the metal plate, leaving the blood supply connected to improve the chances of the graft succeeding.

After three weeks the transplanted tissue was able to receive blood directly from the face so the muscle was cut and stitched back to the chest. Then surgeons used bone from Mohammed’s pelvis to rebuild his lower jaw so he can eventually have teeth implant.

The result is a minor medical miracle that would have been impossible without the skill and dedication of the doctors at the MSF clinic.

The Jordanian clinic was set up 10 years ago to deal with casualties of the war in Iraq but now takes people from Syria, Gaza, Egypt and elsewhere. It was meant to be a temporary solution to a crisis situation – but new crises keep breaking out in the region.

While 3,700 people have been treated to date, the need for specialist surgical care for trauma victims shows no sign of abating.

If you want to know more about  Jordan’s rehabilitation clinic for the victims of war you can check here for a short documentary produced by Al Jazeera.

About the picture: “Refugee camp” by Tracy Hunter; Source:Flickr Creative Commons; License: CC BY 2.0