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Rema fitted with an artificial limb six months after earthquake

Emergency Health Rehabilitation

After a powerful earthquake struck Türkiye and Syria in February, Rema was trapped under the rubble of her home. Found alive after 30 hours, rescue workers had to amputate her leg. She shares her experience.

Rema, 13, had her leg amputated after being trapped in the earthquake that struck Turkey and northwest Syria. Followed-up at the Aqrabat hospital, one of HI’s partners, she was recently fitted with her first prosthesis

Rema, 13, had her leg amputated after being trapped in the earthquake that struck Turkey and northwest Syria. Followed-up at the Aqrabat hospital, one of HI’s partners, she was recently fitted with her first prosthesis | © HI 2023

The day the earth shook

As Rema recalls February 6, 2023, she has to fight back the tears. She will never forget the day when, she says, she lost everything: the two people closest to her heart, her father and her niece. In the days following the disaster, she told Humanity & Inclusion's teams what happened to her:

“We were asleep, and we felt a violent earthquake, especially since we were on the third floor. The higher up you are, the more you feel the shocks. It was extremely violent. Our door was shut. It took a while to release it. I opened the door for my parents, and we left together. My parents were still in the stairwell as I reached the entrance to the building. That’s when something fell on me. I tried to get up, but I couldn’t. Then there was an aftershock and the whole roof collapsed on top of me, so I couldn't get out. My family made it out.

"I was trapped there, and I started shouting. My sister heard me. She went down to tell our relatives that I was still alive. They came back and started to clear the rubble around me. They began by freeing my arm and hair. They dug toward me. There was a dead body right next to me, a child who must have been about 12 years old. I was in a lot of pain because I'd been crushed by the rubble. They managed to clear the space around me and that gave me some relief. They brought me some water and some juice to drink. I was under the rubble for 30 hours.”

Multiple operations and physical therapy sessions

Rema’s leg had been crushed under the rubble and she was amputated at the scene before being rushed to hospital. She needed several operations on her leg before she could start her first physical therapy sessions. Treated at the Aqrabat Hospital, HI's partner in northwest Syria, the teenager was able to count on the support of the entire medical team, including doctors, physical therapists and psychologists. Her physical therapist, Fatima, explains how, over the months, she developed a strong bond with Rema:

“I felt I had to be with her every step of the way. I came up with a plan in my head that we had to follow. I knew it was going to take a long time. However, I was determined to believe that Rema would walk again because I felt that she had the strength and the will to achieve the goal we had set ourselves. For me, Rema isn't just a patient, she's also a friend. It makes me very happy to see her walking again."

Walking to school again

After months of recovery and rehabilitation, Rema was able to try on her first artificial leg last month. It was an emotional mix of stress and happiness.

“I was pleased with the idea of being able to walk on my own again, to go to school, and to do the things I wanted to do at home. But at the same time, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to cope with the prosthesis, that I would limp, that I wouldn't be able to walk as well as before, that it would be a liability.”

Rema is now proud to be able to move around independently and is getting on with her life "almost" the same as she used to. She recently passed her school certificate with flying colors. It was her father's wish, she says, "that I had a duty to fulfill" in his memory.

Humanity & Inclusion's emergency aid

Since the February 6 earthquake, HI’s health teams comprised of staff and partners have been providing emergency response in 13 hospitals and 13 shelters in the regions of Idlib and Northern Aleppo.

In all, 10,500 injured people were assessed and received rehabilitation services. Specialists conducted more than 22,000 physical therapy sessions. The organization has also supplied 8,000 mobility aids, as well as 300 artificial limbs and braces. Psychosocial support teams provided psychological first aid to 8,300 people.

In addition, 3,500 people participated awareness-raising sessions on earthquake safety and the dangers of explosive devices, which already contaminated the area and were shifted by the disaster.

Date published: 08/03/23


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