“One day, I want to walk again”
Mohammad, 32, is from Syria. Four years ago, as fighting raged in his home town, he was hit by a bullet and shrapnel, which lodged in his brain. Now paraplegic, he has taken refuge in Lebanon with his wife and children, where he receives physiotherapy care from Handicap International (HI).
Mohammad doing rehabilitation exercises with Lotfi. | E. Fourt/Handicap International
Mohammad sits in silence in his living room on the fourth floor of a rundown apartment building. He rarely leaves this room and, without a lift, he hasn’t set foot in the street for weeks. The loss of his mobility in an accident in Syria has left him dependent on his family, whose ten members share the same apartment. When Handicap International’s team enters the room, his face seems to light up. His mobility and contact with others are both limited.
One of the organisation’s physiotherapists, Lotfi, asks how he’s feeling. “This is his fourth rehabilitation session,” he explains before beginning some exercises with Mohammad.
As he practices standing and sitting, Mohammad describes his accident to the team. “I was working as a greengrocer at the time. My neighbourhood was quite peaceful, not like other parts of the country… But then, one day, on my way home from work, fighting broke out in my neighbourhood. I was injured by a stray bullet and some shrapnel - which lodged in my brain - and wall collapsed on me.” Mohammad was taken to several hospitals, but it was already too late: he was partially paralysed, the doctors told him.
Mohammad refused to give up hope. When a relative, injured months earlier, told him about the quality of rehabilitation care in Lebanon, where he’d taken refuge, Mohammad decided to move there with his wife and children. On arriving in the country, he contacted Handicap International and asked for their help. “We visited him initially to assess his condition,” explains social worker Mouna. “I felt elated at that moment,” adds Mohammad. “I knew straightaway they could help me.” His words alone show how much progress he’s made since beginning his rehabilitation sessions. “When I arrived in Lebanon, I couldn’t say a word,” he explains.
Nothing, it seems, can stop him – not his still shaky, unsteady legs and hands or the pain that lines his face when he tries to stand. Very determined, he does all the exercises Lotfi shows him. “I won’t give up,” he says. “One day, I want to walk again, return to work and provide for my family.” Mohammad’s dream is to go back to Syria. For him, the return of his speech is a sign of hope - another small step closer to the old life he very much wants to live again.