“I looked at his leg and, deep down, I knew”

  • Iraq

Abdel Rahman was caught in a bombing in Mosul last May, which led to the loss of his leg. He now lives with his family in Hasansham displaced people’s camp, where Handicap International (HI) provides him with rehabilitation care and psychological support.  

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Mohammad does rehabilitation exercises with Abdel Rahman

Abdel Rahman is sitting next to his father Ahmad in the family’s tent. The boy seems lost in thought as his parents describe what happened to them last May. “It was a Friday,” says Ahmad. “We were at home in Mosul eating breakfast when a missile fell on our house. Abdel Rahman was injured in the right leg and my other son died instantly...” Shortly after the accident, Ahmad and his family tried to flee the city several times. As the scene of the fighting shifted, they were forced to move from district to district. “After a few days, I noticed that Abdel Rahman’s leg was turning blue all over. When we eventually got to hospital, his condition was much worse already.”

Doctors operated on him six times in an attempt to save his leg. But it was too late. “I had a feeling he might need an amputation. I looked at his leg and, deep down, I knew,” says Ahmad. “I’m not a doctor. I don’t know about this sort of thing, but I figured as much when I saw the state Abdel Rahman was in. He was the one who finally told the doctors to amputate his leg.”

In early June, Ahmad and his family left the hospital and travelled to Hasansham camp. There, they met Handicap International’s physiotherapist, Mohammad, who is visiting Abdel Rahman today for his third physiotherapy session. Before he begins the exercises, he asks how the boy is feeling. Ahmad’ son is still finding it hard to adjust to his new circumstances: “We try to help him control his temper and take his mind off things. He plays with other children and we joke around. But sometimes he looks sad and screams and says his leg hurts.” It won’t be long before Handicap International’s psychologist pays them a visit, Mohammad reassures Abdel Rahman’s father.

Torn between the phantom pain in his lost limb and the need to salvage his pride in front of his family, Abdel Rahman doesn’t seem to know whether to laugh or cry as he does his rehabilitation exercises. When Mohammad asks him to stand up using the crutches he received from HI, he says he can’t. Eventually though, he agrees and, after a few attempts, he manages to stand. Abdel Rahman looks as emotionally unsteady as his first steps on one leg.

Mohammad ends the session with some balancing exercises. Abdel Rahman closes his eyes and, for the first time, he seems to relax. His breathing slows and his tears and laughter dissolve into silence and concentration. Abdel Rahman’s family watch him and then clap in encouragement as he stands on his left leg for a few seconds. He smiles. It’s the first time he has managed to stand up and take a step forward since he arrived in the camp.