Sayed, 6: “I can play with my friends again!”
Sayed is a six-year-old boy from Afghanistan with an irresistible smile. When he was five, he was injured by an improvised mine – one of many victim-activated devices that regularly kill and maim people in Afghanistan. After Sayed’s left leg was amputated, he was immediately treated by Handicap International and he is steadily regaining his independence. We talked to him and his father, Mohammed, at Handicap International’s physical rehabilitation centre in Kandahar.
Sayed Rasool is a 6 year old boy from Afghanistan who was injured when an improvised mine exploded. | © Jaweed Tanveer / Handicap International
Sayed is lying on his bed, playing with a helicopter, in his room at the Kandahar rehabilitation centre, where he’s staying while he receives follow-up care.
Although his father, Mohammad, shows a lot of affection towards his child, his words are more guarded: “Sayed used to play a lot with other children and his brothers and sisters, but the accident had a big impact on his life and ours.”
Mohammad still finds it hard to open up about the past. In 2014, as he and his son were returning from Mugar, the minibus they were travelling in hit an improvised mine, killing four passengers. Sayed suffered injuries to both legs. Although he was operated on immediately, his recovery did not go as well as planned. His health deteriorated to such an extent that he had to have his left leg amputated to save his life.
“We were really worried about our son after his amputation. And people said he’d be a burden to our family because he needs us or his brothers to help him move around,” explains Mohammad sadly.
The long road to self-reliance
Sayed's family was immediately referred to Handicap International’s physical rehabilitation centre in Kandahar. Opened in 1996, the centre is one of the country’s leading facilities for the care and treatment of people with disabilities.
In autumn 2014, Mohammad and Sayed made the 250 kilometre journey between their village and the centre of Kandahar several times. Although tired by the journey, and despite the family’s basic living conditions, Sayed continued to make progress, according to his physiotherapist, Mahmood.
“We began with some exercises to stimulate Sayed, to strengthen his muscles and to show his father how to help him,” explains Mahmood. “Sayed was very weak but, after we gave him a walking frame, he gradually learned to move around by himself again.”
Sayed was fitted with his first prosthetic leg at the end of 2014. Assisted by his parents, he continued doing his rehabilitation exercises in his village.
Since then, Sayed has grown a lot and he’s back in Kandahar to be fitted with a new leg. After seeing Mahmood, Sayed is taken to the prosthesis production workshop. The technician, Khalilurahman, measures his stump for the cast he’ll need to make his leg.
He can go to school soon
Once his new prosthetic leg is ready, Sayed tries it on in the centre’s large exercise room under his father’s watchful eye. The technician checks to see if he needs to make any adjustments. Without a word of complaint, Sayed tries it on and he can walk normally almost immediately. His new leg is ready at last!
Sayed will need to come back in six months' time to have it adjusted again. With the help from his family, he’ll also carry on doing his rehabilitation exercises to strengthen his leg muscles.
When we ask him how his prosthesis had changed his life, Sayed says shyly: “I just wanted to play with my friends again, and my brothers and sisters - that’s what I like best. Now I’ve got my leg, I can. I’m so happy!”
His son’s smile has restored Mohammed’s faith in the future. “I’m the only one who works in my family, we don’t have much money, and our village is far from anywhere, but I want my children to have a better life when they grow up. With help, Sayed’s self-reliance and confidence are going to grow. He can already walk unaided, and he’ll soon be able to go to school! If he gets a good education, I’d like him to become a doctor,” he says with hope in his voice.
Video - Overcoming all obstacles
About Kandahar Rehabilitation Centre
Kandahar Rehabilitation Centre opened in 1996. It is the only centre in Kandahar province to offer people with disabilities a complete range of services. It provides physiotherapy care, fits prostheses and orthoses, and distributes mobility aids (wheelchairs, crutches, walking frames, etc.). There are also 33 beds for patients who need to travel long distances to get to the centre or who live in isolated villages.
The centre has grown constantly over the last ten years, and new patient numbers have increased 10% on average since 2007. A total of 27,898 patients were treated between 2010 and 2014.
In 2015, 7,332 new patients benefited from the centre’s services, of whom one third were children. 21% of these patients were casualties of improvised mines and explosive remnants of war. According to data gathered in 2013, at least 20% of the centre’s beneficiaries had had a lower-limb amputation.