Operation Mercy Iraq operates a community-based rehabilitation (CBR) project for Syrian refugees and internally displaced people living in the camps.
On our first visit with Rania*, who we knew had a disability in her lower extremities, we found her unable to move, stand up, or perform any daily activities. Her father said that he had always been impacted whenever he saw a person with a disability. “God gave me two persons with disabilities in my family; my daughter and my mother,” he said. His mother is not able to walk or speak.
A doctor taught us how to help Rania through physical therapy and we have followed-up with her and visited twice a week. Initially we were doing the exercises for her, as she was unable to do the exercises by herself because her body was cramped and heavy. Rania was depressed with no hope in life or even desire to improve. We added to the encouragement that her loving father and supportive mother were giving her, to try to give her hope to move forward.
We taught the family how to do the exercises with Rania and told them that the exercises needed to be done three times each day. We identified long and short-term goals which we shared with her mother and sister. We encouraged them and communicated the importance of their role in Rania’s progress. We soon noticed gradual physical and emotional improvements.
After a while Rania’s legs became strong and flexible enough for her to walk using a walker. Her mother was elated when she saw her daughter’s progress, and this encouraged her to take even better care of Rania. Her mother told us that Rania loves us so much and she can’t wait for the days when we go and visit her. “I don’t want you to leave and I feel sad when I don’t see you,” Rania said.
As her flexibility and strength improved, we taught her how to do the exercises by herself without any help. At first, she complained that it was too difficult for her to do them on her own. However, we explained to her that doing them on her own would produce even more flexibility and strength. Rania welcomed our encouragement to persevere and we coached her on how to use a rope to pull her feet and legs during the exercises. After consistently trying, she was soon able to do the exercises on her own.
Though it was difficult initially, with persistent effort and encouragement, over the course of a month, Rania was able to take one step! It was a joy to watch her reach this goal. We knew it was important to focus on strengthening and stretching her legs and back so that she could walk more easily. The doctor recommended using two pillows filled with sand to help stretch her legs and gave he us helpful exercises for her back. Her mother had the pillows made and we were able to get to work right away, thanks to her mother’s care and persistence.
One day during a visit, Rania enthusiastically said, “I have a surprise for you!" The surprise was wonderful! She stood up on her own and took three steps without any support or help! Her parents exclaimed: “If you hadn’t come into our lives and followed up on her condition, she would not have reached this point.”
It brought us all great joy that we could work together to help this precious girl move from lying flat on her bed, hopeless, to walking, learning to read and write, and helping her mother wash the dishes! We will continue to visit and work with Rania and her family to see even greater progress.
* Name changed