Wednesday, July 17, 2024

In an Emirati hospital, Syrian children who have survived an earthquake face a painful reality


Sham Sheikh Mohammed (nine years old), critically injured and trapped under the rubble for 40 hours in the February 6 earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people in Syria and Turkey, was not informed of the death of his mother and sister.

“I told her that her mother is in the intensive care unit and that her condition is critical,” her father Muhammad told AFP, noting that Sham and his 15-year-old son Omar had been transferred from the northwest and could not sleep. Syria, outside government control, flew to Turkey and then to Abu Dhabi for treatment.

Sham’s story captivated Syrians and others around the world after a video showing her interacting with a rescue team of White Helmets, who worked for six hours to pull her out from the rubble, went viral.

Sham and his brother were among the 12 Syrians who survived the earthquake and were relocated by the UAE to its lands to receive the necessary care in Abu Dhabi.

Doctors at Burjeel Medical City Hospital say they have “ruled out” life-threatening infections in his lower extremities without confirming whether a limb would have to be amputated.

Najad Sham reflected on the feelings of sadness, hope and heartbreak that gripped the world after last month’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake destroyed dozens of buildings in parts of Turkey and Syria.

After her rescue in the city of Armanas in Idlib province drew global attention, the UAE sent a medical plane from Istanbul to Abu Dhabi to take her and Omar.

“Both children are now recovering well,” their Abu Dhabi doctor Michael Oglu said in a statement last week.

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But Sam isn’t the only survivor, and he soon has to face a terrible truth.

“Everybody’s Alive”

At a nearby hospital, Isra al-Abdullah receives regular updates on his health, but no news of his family’s fate.

Like Sham, a 17-year-old girl from Jableh, a Syrian government-held town, was rescued from the rubble hours later in Jableh.

His brother Mohammed, a member of the Syrian army who was in Damascus when the quake hit, said he had injuries to his skull, hip, shoulder and eyes.

What Isra didn’t know was that her parents and four other siblings died in the earthquake, along with the wife and daughter of one of her brothers. Only Isra, his 12-year-old sister and his nephew survived.

“We told her that everyone is still alive,” Muhammad said, closing the door to Isra’s room in the hospital so she wouldn’t hear her words.

Isra keeps asking about his mother and sister Kufran, and his young niece Jana, who died, Mohammed said.

“I tell her I don’t have phone credit here in the UAE,” he told AFP when she asked to speak to them at Sheikh Shaqbout Medical City Hospital.

“My son starved to death”

Isra was unable to speak and the serum tube did not leave her arm while under constant observation. Nerve damage affected her vision.

Although doctors say he will make a full recovery, his family will keep his death a secret until he recovers.

“I buried my family one by one,” said Muhammad, “and I cannot say anything (to Isra) until God heals her.”

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In a nearby room, Ali Yusuf Rammo, a displaced Syrian from rural Latakia Governorate, is being treated for leg injuries after being crushed by rubble.

The father of three has regained some movement in his legs and is hopeful he will be able to walk again, but he is still mourning the deaths of his youngest son and his wife, who was two months pregnant when their building collapsed.

He says he was unable to feed his family dinner the day the earthquake claimed their lives, while he receives food at an Emirati hospital.

“My son starved to death… When I would come to eat chicken, meat, apples or biscuits, my 10-year-old son would be gone,” she said tearfully.

Bill Dittman
Bill Dittman
"Freelance alcohol fan. Coffee maven. Musicaholic. Food junkie. Extreme web expert. Communicator."

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