Naya wants to be an astronaut
At her doctor’s appointment, Naya listens carefully when the doctors tell her about her upcoming surgeries on her left arm. “So this means I’ll have to miss four days at school?” she asks. She turns to her father: “I’ll have to study while in the hospital because I don’t want to fall behind.”
Syrian refugee Naya is only 12 years old but she seems much older. She is very ambitious and she really enjoys school. “In the future I’d really like to be an astronaut,” she tells us assuredly, her eyes filled with passion and drive.
“We ran to the kitchen because we felt that it was the safest place to hide”
“Naya changed after the day that she was hurt,” her father tells us as he sips on his coffee. “She was very affected by the fact that she felt that she was the reason for her mother’s injury.”
Naya remembers the sound of the explosion, a noise so loud she knew to instinctively run to the kitchen. “When airstrikes or explosions used to happen, all of the family would run to the kitchen because we felt that it was the safest place to hide in,” she explains.
As she ran into the room, she bumped into her mother who was holding a pot of boiling water. The scalding liquid poured all over the two of them. It spilled over both of their abdomens, and Naya’s arm was badly burnt as well. Her underarms are now fused together, limiting her ability to raise her arms fully.
Despite the painful burns on her body, Naya stayed brave. Her father admires her strength. “After her first treatment, she was prescribed cortisone injections. This led her to gain weight, and she started to have problems with walking and doing her daily activities. It was after this that we noticed how much impact this accident had on her psychological state.”
After this Naya skipped school for two months. Her mood declined and she became moody and emotional. “She became ashamed of her scars. This shame grew and grew until she was embarrassed about her whole body.”
Coming to Lebanon
The airstrike that led to this accident was the final trigger for Naya’s father. They had resettled in three different places in Syria before this, in a desperate attempt to avoid the war. But after this, her father felt that there was nowhere safe left in the whole country.
When they arrived in Lebanon, Caritas referred their case to INARA. We took Naya to medical assessments at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) where doctors explained that we can help to improve Naya’s mobility through scar revision surgeries. Her arm is contracted and this can be released over two stages. Doctors anticipate that this procedure will be completed in three months.
Naya returned to school after two months. She started to develop coping mechanisms for her injury. For instance, she tries to wear long sleeves to cover her injury. “People at school always ask me about my scars and I hate answering the question,” she admits. “I don’t want to constantly remember that day.”
Naya has thrown herself into school and she enjoys it a lot. It serves as a helpful distraction from the things that she saw as a young girl growing up during the horrors of the Syrian War. It doesn’t stop her from missing home though. “I miss everything in Syria: my house, my friends, my neighbours. We used to all play together. Everything was safe around us back then…”
When we ask her how the medical treatment we provide will change her life, Naya smiles. “It means I won’t be ashamed anymore of the injury that I have. I will finally be able to feel similar to all the other children in my class.”