In November 2012, Haya was riding in a taxi through the streets of Deraa, Syria with her children. Suddenly, a stray bullet passed through the car, striking her in the back. She was initially taken to a dispensary, but as the personnel were unable to help her, so she was moved to a regional hospital.
Doctors needed to operate. Removing the bullet took them several hours, and they had to remove Haya’s damaged spleen and a kidney. Unfortunately, they could not remove the shrapnel in her spine. The doctors said she was suffering from irreversible paraplegia.
While she recovered in the hospital, Haya’s husband decided they should flee Syria. He gathered their two children, important papers, fetched Haya from the hospital, and then headed for the Jordanian border. Their first attempt to cross the border failed, but a few days later they successfully entered the country.
In Jordan, Haya endured three more operations to remove the shrapnel from her spine.
Her husband soon found an apartment in Irbid that was homely enough to bring some small comfort to his wife and children. This was Haya’s lowest point—she was overwhelmed by her disability and the trauma suffered by her children, who had survived so much danger.
A Handicap International mobile team first visited Haya in March 2013. A physical therapist and social worker carried out an initial assessment, which showed that Haya would need support for many months.
At 30 years old, Haya is a young woman with a promising future. In Syria, she was finishing her studies to achieve her goal of becoming a pediatric nurse. Surrounded by her lively children and devoted husband, she was fully focused on achieving her goals, obtaining her qualification and starting her career. Today her disability means starting again—almost from scratch.
The Handicap International team started with rehabilitation sessions to improve Haya's strength. Gradually, as her muscle tone improved, the team fit her for various mobility aids: a wheelchair, then crutches, and later a walking frame. Over the course of these rehabilitation sessions Haya learned to move from her bed into her wheelchair, which she could then use to get around.
The physiotherapist taught Haya the exercises she needs to do on her own. And the team taught Haya’s husband how best to help and encourage Haya. The physiotherapy sessions are followed by discussions about understanding and accepting disability.
Haya is slowly getting back to her normal day-to-day life. She can take care of her children again, help her seven-year old daughter with homework, and cook for the family. As she grows more independent, her husband can start looking for work. He is more supportive than ever and extremely proud of the excellent progress she has made.
Indeed, Haya has made so much progress that she will soon graduate from Handicap International’s care. “Independent, healthy and strong enough to move around on her own—this is exactly the kind of personal success we strive for,” says Elizabeth MacNairn, executive director of Handicap International U.S. “It gives us so much joy to have supported Haya and her family during their time of need.