Syria: "The smell of death was floating in the air"


“There was smoke everywhere and the smell of death was floating in the air,” says Mohammad, a man from northern Syria. “I felt death too. I just remember my friend who took me in his arms before I lost consciousness. I then woke up in a hospital a few hours later. Many people around me were crying out in pain. I tried to move my arms, but it was as if my body wouldn’t respond.”

That day, doctors told Mohammad that he had a spinal cord injury after suffering a shrapnel wound. The shock was terrible for the young man who then fell into a deep depression. 

“Every night I cried for hours and every day I was so bored I could have died. I stayed in the hospital for a month and a half before I was finally able to leave. The joy of seeing my family again was spoiled by the fact that we had to leave the city because it was too dangerous to stay. I still couldn’t walk, so my family carried me to a camp for displaced people, where we settled.”

When he arrived in the camp, Handicap International physical therapists provided rehabilitative care and mobility aids to help him move around and gain independence. “I remember praying for a miracle,” he says. “But right at that moment I knew that I had to bring about the miracle myself. I had to be strong and wake up every day with new dreams and hopes.”

During the course of his physical therapy sessions, Mohammed improved and swapped his wheelchair for a walker, then graduated to crutches. Today, he stands on his own. “I can move around the camp again, even down roads that were difficult to take,” he recalls with a smile.

“I’m happy I can take part in these sessions. I can finally walk around and go to the mosque. It feels like this year has lasted a century, but my efforts have finally paid off. My family and Handicap International have restored my hope in the future. Today, I would like to tell people injured in the conflict not to feel discouraged. They need to get on with it and get better. I would just like to tell them not to give up.” 

More than one million people like Mohammad suffer injuries in the Syrian conflict. Handicap International has been helping them regain their dignity since 2013. Read more about our work in Syria.