Syrian Girl Learns How to Walk With New Leg

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Noor was walking to her cousin's house when a war plane dropped the bomb that would forever change her life, wounding her leg so badly she would eventually lose it.

"I looked down and the sight of it frightened me," now-14 year-old Noor said, describing what she saw in the airstrike's aftermath a year and a half ago. Doctors in Aleppo, where Noor lived at the time, tried desperately to save her badly damaged leg, but two weeks later the wound developed gangrene, and they had no choice but to amputate it.

Noor's mother, Hanna, said her daughter became withdrawn and refused to see friends or even her own family after the operation. "The first four months were especially bad. She refused to leave her room, and she wouldn't eat anything," Hanna said.

In late May, Noor and Hanna fled the fighting in Syria for Reyhanli, Turkey to see specialists at the National Syrian Project for Prosthetic Limbs. The clinic is funded by Syria Relief, an NGO, and the Syrian Expatriates Medical Association, and provides free treatment and prosthetics to Syrian victims of war. The clinic does not ask patients whether they are civilians or fighters; its director Raid al-Masri says about 40 percent of the patients receiving treatment have been women and children. Two days after her first appointment at the clinic, Noor was fitted with a new leg.

"I'm happy and sad at the same time," Noor said. "I'm sad that my leg is replaced with something that is artificial. One moment I was walking and moving, and now I feel immobile. Hopefully God will get me through this."

As she watched Noor take her first steps with the new prosthesis, Hanna expressed mixed emotions. "I'm obviously very happy that Noor survived the explosion," she said. "But at the same time, I'm very worried. She's not the same person she was before – she might be alive, but her soul is dead."

Noor still visits the clinic regularly for physiotherapy. She and her mother now live in a small apartment in Reyhanli, where Hanna works in a nearby café for 12 hours a day, every day of the week. Despite the long hours, she's still struggling to make ends meet, and Hanna worries that the landlord will evict them soon. The rest of their family are still in Aleppo, but Hanna can't bear the thought of her daughter returning to a place where war rages on.