Friday 25 May 2018

Prosthetic limb clinic offers Syrians new chance at life

Three-year-old Seif, last name not available, smiles as he tries to walk using his two new prosthetic limbs with the help of his mother (AP)
Three-year-old Seif, last name not available, smiles as he tries to walk using his two new prosthetic limbs with the help of his mother (AP)

A small clinic in Turkey has given hundreds of wounded Syrians a new chance at life by fitting them with prosthetic limbs.

Treatment at the centre in the border town of Reyhanli is free and only for Syrian civilians and fighters who have lost body parts in the Syrian conflict.

Clinic staff manufacture prosthetic body parts while patients are in therapy.

Among them is three-year-old Seif, who was riding in the back seat of a car in Aleppo in February when a rocket struck the car, blowing off his two legs and the leg of his older brother.

Their parents, who were sitting in the front, survived with minor injuries.

The family recently crossed into Turkey so that the brothers could be fitted with artificial limbs at the National Syrian Project for Prosthetic Limbs, a Syrian-run venture supported by Syria Relief, the Syrian Expatriate Medical Association, and Every Syrian.

"The number of wounded people is growing," said Raed al-Masri, who has been running the clinic since it opened in February 2013.

He said he is unsure what is causing the spike in numbers, adding: "Perhaps it is the Russian bombing or maybe people have become more aware of the centre."

By his count, more than 50,000 Syrians are amputees in need of treatment. The clinic works on an average of 100 cases per month.

The technicians working at the clinic are all Syrian refugees. They largely learned their craft on the go but training has brought personnel up to European standards, Mr Al-Masri said.

It takes about five days to manufacture a limb, test it and fit it on a patient.

The rehabilitation process can stretch from one week to several months depending on the condition and morale of the patient.

Mr Al-Masri said: "People who have prosthetic limbs are in a very difficult psychological state, so what about the people who have no limbs, or have a handicap?

"They are in a different category, in an even more difficult state."

Those in the clinic are the lucky ones and, generally, they know it.

Ahmed Abdullah, a 30-year-old rebel who lost both legs in 2012 while fighting against the Assad regime, says his life was transformed after being fitted with artificial limbs.

The former fighter said: "Before I had a prosthetic limb, I would get annoyed sometimes because I couldn't get things for myself.

"I would need my brother or sister to get it for me. After... my life became - I can't say 100% - but 90 to 95% good."

Press Association

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