“I felt like my life was over,” 17-year old Sulaiman tells us when he talks about the day he got injured three years ago.
He had just gone to his favourite bookshop in the city he lived in. He remembers feeling really excited because he wanted to show his friends at school what he’d bought. He was walking home when he heard the familiar sound of a missile. That’s when everything went blank for him.
Doctors told him he would have to have his leg amputated
The next thing Sulaiman remembers is his mother telling him to get up. He looked down and saw that he was bleeding and covered in dust. His mother helped him up and dragged him to the road. She stopped a nearby car and begged the driver to take them to the nearest hospital.
Doctors told him that it was likely he would have to have his leg amputated - although this didn’t happen, much to Sulaiman’s relief. However, his entire body was pierced with shrapnel. “The thing I remember most about that day is the noise of doctors placing bits of shrapnel that they’d pulled out of my body, landing in a metal bowl,” Sulaiman told us.
The doctors managed to get most of the shrapnel out, but the shrapnel in his right thigh was very deep in and he would need to have an operation to have it extracted.
The attack at his school
Sulaiman went back to school a few weeks after he was discharged from hospital. He was glad to be reunited with his friends, and they helped him get around because he had a severe limp and couldn’t stand up for very long. He was very close to his friends.
“One day my school was bombed.” No emotions registered on his face when he narrates this part of his story to us. “All my friends died. Everyone but me. I don’t want to go back to school now.”
His mother informs us that this has been the thing that has affected her son the most. “He refuses to go back to school because he thinks he will die if he goes,” she says, wiping tears from her eyes. “I wish he would go back and finish his education but he won’t. Often he wakes up in the middle of the night screaming. Sometimes he runs to my bed because is panicking so much.”
Not long after his school was destroyed and he lost all of his friends, his father went missing. To this day they don’t know where he is. After this his mother knew that she couldn’t remain in Syria. She had almost lost her son twice, and had no idea what happened to her husband. “All that we had in Syria is gone now,” Sulaiman informs us.
Homeless in Beirut
“When we first arrived in Lebanon we had no place to stay,” his mother explains. “We slept on the streets next to the sea on the Corniche in Beirut. We would put our clothes on the ground and sleep on them.”
Eventually her brother sent some money to help them out until she could find a job. They found a flat and his mother found some work, but they still struggle to pay the rent.
“I will get my life back”
INARA was introduced to Sulaiman by Intersos. When he first came in and had a medical assessment with Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) he was worried that they would amputate his leg. “But when he sat me down and explained where the shrapnel was, what they would do to me, and how I will be able to walk normally again after the surgery I was so relieved.”
He was told that the doctors can take the shrapnel out of his right thigh. Once out, it will mean Sulaiman won’t be in constant pain when he walks. “I will get my life back,” he says, smiling as he speaks. “I can help my mother with money, and she won’t have to worry anymore!”
Sulaiman wants to be a hairdresser when he grows up. He practices on his mother but can’t stand for too long to do it. He looks forward to the day that he can start working and start a new, happier and healthier chapter in his life.