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Too Pained to Talk: Brain-Damaged Syrian Boy Desperately Needs Surgery

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Seven-year-old Ali lies inside a frigid tent. He is severely disabled after suffering brain damage at birth. He can’t talk, move or eat solid food, and his spine is deformed.

“He cries all the time, but I don’t know what he wants. I don’t know if he’s in pain because he can’t talk," said Ali’s mother, Fadia.

Fadia, her husband, Abu Ali, and her three sons fled their home in Aleppo a year ago after it was destroyed in the fighting. They now live in a one-room tent in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

During the bitterly cold winter, the family relies on a small stove for warmth, but Fadia can only afford to buy enough wood to burn at night. During the day, she finds paper and scrap, which is not enough to keep the fire going for more than a few minutes at a time.

Ali, 7, suffered brain damage at birth, is paralyzed and cannot speak. His mother says her son needs surgery to straighten his spine, but there is no medical support available to
them.
Ali, 7, suffered brain damage at birth, is paralyzed and cannot speak. His mother says her son needs surgery to straighten his spine, but there is no medical support available to them.Yuki Tachibana / NBC News

To add to their misery, a massive snowstorm in January piled several inches of snow across the region, making life even more difficult.

“It was freezing,” Faida said. “At 2 in the morning, the snow started to pile up on the tent forcing the top to weaken, so we had to put a wall up so it doesn’t collapse on us."

The freezing temperatures also hit Ali hard. “He gets intense stomach cramps with the cold and he cries all the time. Even when we give him medicine to calm the pain, he still cries," Fadia said.

Ali spends most of the day and night lying in the tent. Although he’s small for his age, he is getting too heavy for Fadia to carry.

“I have pains in my arms and back ... I can’t lift him anymore.” She said. “He desperately needs a wheelchair. I can’t continue to carry him. It’s painful.”

It’s not just a wheelchair that Ali needs. Doctors told Fadia that Ali needs surgery on his spine. Otherwise his rib cage will eventually puncture his lungs, they said. But there is no money. Fadia is already in debt, and there is no work for Ali’s dad. They live off handouts from local charities.

Um Ali holds her oldest son Ali, 7, who suffered brain damage at birth in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Ali is paralyzed and cannot
speak. Um Ali says Ali will needs surgery to straighten his spine, but there is no medical support
available. Ali's brothers Hassan and Hussein are at right.
Um Ali holds her oldest son Ali, 7, who suffered brain damage at birth in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Ali is paralyzed and cannot speak. Um Ali says Ali will needs surgery to straighten his spine, but there is no medical support available. Ali's brothers Hassan and Hussein are at right.Yuka Tachibana / NBC News

“Of course I will take care of him but it’s very difficult for me. Raising 10 healthy kids would be much easier," Fadia said.

“I don’t know what his future holds if he does not receive medical treatment. God knows what will happen to him.”

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