Syrian child amputees healing, striving in Turkey

              By Nilay Kar Onum</p>  <p>ISTANBUL (AA) - “I was playing football outside when I was hit by a missile. When I woke up, I was in a hospital room,” a 10-year-old Syrian boy says in an Istanbul prosthesis center. 

Taha, who lost his right leg during an airstrike in Syria's Deir-Ez Zor province three years ago, is only one of the thousands of Syrian children, whose bodies have been mutilated by the war.

As the Syrian war enters its ninth year, children are still paying the heaviest price.

Last year was the deadliest for children in Syria — 1,106 were killed in attack, according to UNICEF.

Taha was playing football when he heard the aircraft. He tried to escape and hid in a nearby building but aircraft struck the building.

He was trapped under the rubble for three hours and his family was told he died.

“I cried so much,” his young mother Yasemin, 27, said. “I did not believe that he died at first. Later we learned that he was alive but lost his one leg and his hip was broken."

Doctors were not hopeful of his condition.

"We lived hard days but got over the most important part of these days," his mother said.

Taha and his family now see themselves luckier than others. They can at least find a center, which supplied a high-tech artificial leg.

Private Kuwait Istanbul Orthotic Prosthetic Center in the city’s Edirnekapi district was established in 2017 by the Istanbul-based IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation in collaboration with Zakat House Kuwait and Alliance of International Doctors (AID).

Using cutting-edge technology, 3D printed-limbs are being produced at the three-story clinic.

The technology has the capacity to change the lives of millions of amputees.

“What made me the happiest was to see Taha can walk again,” his mother says. “I don’t know what I would do if we couldn’t find this center.”

“He can walk right now but he needs much more time to get used to his prosthesis,” she added.

And Taha said he is happy to walk again. “I am well now. I can walk by myself. I can also score a goal just as I was doing before.”

– 'No war here'

Just like Taha, 10-year-old Ali was also amputated in Aleppo in 2015 but can walk without any assistance thanks to the same center in Istanbul.

A bomb hit Ali when he was in a grocery.

“I heard the noise of bomb and then it threw me and cut my leg off,” he says.

Ali, an energetic boy, got a prosthesis in Syria, but it did not fit properly.

Later, Ali, together with his family came to this center in Istanbul one year ago.

“I was very happy to come here because there is no war here. Thanks to this prosthesis, I can run and play,” he says.

His mother, Aya, also voices gratitude to the center and Turkey for the hospitality shown to them.

“There is no other country other than Turkey that helps us. The only solution for us is here. No one accepts us, no country helps us.

“He is just like other normal boys. He can do everything. He does not have any problem,” she says.

But, Ali still fears planes because of what he lived through.

"One day, in Turkey, a plane was flying low and I escaped to the classroom when I was playing outside," he said.

The condition of another Syrian boy, Osman, 9, at the clinic, is more serious. He received two artificial legs.

Osman lost his legs when a car hit him while he and his six-person family were trying to flee fighting in Aleppo in 2017.

Because of the lack of means, they crossed into Turkey and finally made their way to Istanbul last year after treatment in Hatay and Osmaniye provinces.

His treatment process is longer than others, according to his father Zakariyya.

He cannot walk on prosthesis comfortably as his legs were not amputated professionally because of war conditions.

But, Osman still feels lucky.

“I think I am lucky because I can walk,” he said. “What I want is to play much more football. I can not play much now.”

The three children interviewed by Anadolu Agency at the center are very hopeful of the future.

Ali is dreaming of being a teacher to provide a brighter future for children just like him.

Taha and Osman want to be doctors when they grow up.

“I want to help and treat people and provide prostheses for them,” Osman says.

– 750 prostheses in 1.5 years

Dr. Yasar Tatar, the coordinator of the center, told Anadolu Agency of patients having to resort to five prosthesis centers in Turkey and Syria.

“We’ve provided 750 prostheses for patients so far. This is a record number within 1.5 years,” Tatar, an experienced doctor, says.

“We’ve implanted these prostheses for around 500 people. One person may get one more prosthesis as some of them are broken, some of them are temporary prosthesis or they need to be altered because of various reasons like losing and gaining weight or growing.

“Twenty-five percent of 354 people are under the age of 18,” he said, calling it is a “disaster”.

“Sixty percent of these people got prostheses for the first time," he added. "This means if this center does not exist, these people may not get prostheses."

Turkey is a county, which hosts more Syrian refugees than any other country.

It has spent more than $37 billion of its own national resources to help and shelter refugees since the beginning of the war in Syria.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from the devastating conflict that began in 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.