“It’s hard to believe we still have a future...”
Talal, his wife and children took refuge in Lebanon at the start of the war in Syria. Last year, he was seriously injured in a car accident that left him partially paralysed. Handicap International is now providing him with physiotherapy care.
Talal, his wife and children in their shelter in Lebanon. | © Elisa Fourt / HI.
When Handicap International’s physiotherapist, Mariam, enters the shelter Talal shares with his family, she discovers three children sitting cross-legged on a carpet, eating breakfast. Their mother, Hiyam, keeps an eye on them as she helps her husband move from a plastic chair to his bed. Talal, 40, slowly puts one foot in front of the other, leaning on his wife and wincing at even the slightest movement. Although it’s been a year since his accident, he’s still in a lot of pain. Once Talal is lying on his bed, Mariam starts a new rehabilitation session. “Talal’s come a long way since we first met him,” she explains. “But it’ll still be a while before he recovers from his accident.”
As she feeds Ahed, the youngest of their three children, Hiyam says: “We left our country when the conflict began. We didn’t want our sons and daughter to grow up with the war. When we arrived here, in Lebanon, we thought we’d be safe. Then one day, on his way home, a car came out of nowhere and ploughed into Talal. My daughter was with him - she’s still very traumatized by the accident. They took my husband to hospital and he was in intensive care for a month. The doctors told us he wouldn’t survive, or if he did, he wouldn’t remember anything - neither me nor our children. They also said he’d be totally paralysed for the rest of his life. I remember the first time I visited him in his hospital room: he looked like he was dead. I was devastated.”
Hiyam gives Talal an affectionate look as he continues doing his physiotherapy exercises with Mariam. When he manages to slightly raise his leg off the mattress, his wife’s face lights up with a huge smile. “I never lost hope,” she says with emotion in her voice. “And I did everything possible to make sure my husband was able to get physiotherapy care. When he was in hospital, I borrowed money from everyone I knew to make sure he had rehabilitation sessions. But after a while, it wasn’t enough.”
Looking for ways to ensure her husband continued to receive physiotherapy care, Hiyam visited one of the health centres where Handicap International (HI) provides free care. “That’s where I met your team. A week later, they came to our home to provide Talal with physiotherapy sessions. When I was trying to find a solution for my husband, I asked for help from lots of organisations, but none of them did what you’ve done for us. You’re the ones who came to see us here and who are helping Talal recover.”
As her husband’s session comes to an end, Hiyam describes the enormous progress he’s made already: “I know it might not seem like much, and Talal is still in a lot of pain and moves very slowly, but he’s changed a lot since his first physiotherapy session with HI. Before, he couldn’t move at all and he was totally dependent on us. We fed him, washed him, and so on. Your help has given us a reason to carry on. When a physiotherapist tells us that Talal will recover some of his movement, and that he’ll gradually get better, it makes a huge difference.”
Hiyam clears away the breakfast and sits on the bed with her children next to her husband. Asked what the family intends to do next, she replies: “The future? It’s hard to believe we still have one... Since my husband’s accident, we’ve been living from hand to mouth. Maybe we’ll return to our country. But everything’s been destroyed. We don’t even have a house to live in. Of course I’d like to go home, but if it’s no longer there, what can we do? We’re putting ourselves in God’s hands. I hope that, one way or another, my husband will fully recover so we can guarantee a bright future for our children.”