“I had to leave Syria when people started to get abducted,” Hanan’s father explains to us in the INARA offices in Lebanon. “Our home was destroyed in an airstrike around the same time and nothing was safe for us in our hometown. I saw this as a sign from God that I really had to leave.”
The family came to Lebanon as refugees. Hanan was born in Lebanon – but, under Lebanese law, is not classified as a citizen. The family live in a refugee camp in the north of Lebanon. “All the houses are made of plates of metal,” her father says as he describes where they live.
“The neighbors noticed that Hanan walks strangely…”
It was Hanan’s neighbors that first pointed out that something might be wrong with the child. “They noticed that she walked quite strangely when she was just over a year old.” She had a subtle limp at the time, and so the father decided to take her to the doctor. The doctor informed the family that Hanan was fine and that nothing was wrong.
However, the subtle limp became more and more obvious as Hanan grew. By the time she was two the family knew that they would need to get someone else’s advice, so they took her to the closest hospital to them.
“At this hospital they told us that she would need a cast first and afterwards would need a surgery.” But the father, remembering the previous doctor, didn’t believe him. So he went to another hospital to get a second opinion. It was at this point that the doctor diagnosed Hanan with developmental dislocation of the hip (DDH).
Treatment for DDH, an abnormal hip joint formation, would have been free in Syria. But in Lebanon this treatment is expensive. If left untreated, Hanan would be in a huge amount of pain by the time she reached early adulthood, and would be at high risk of developing osteoarthritis. There is also a chance that it could produce a difference in leg length.
DDH doesn’t just affect children physically but also psychologically. Many children with this condition shut themselves away from interacting with other people for fear of being bullied.
Referred to INARA
The doctor who diagnosed Hanan with DDH recommended that the family speak with Doctor Taha at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC). He sent Hanan’s x-ray to the doctor, who informed the family that she would in fact need a surgery first, followed by a cast. He then put the family in touch with INARA, who would be able to manage their case from start to finish, and ensure the treatment was fully financed.
“Our problem was that, until we met with Doctor Taha and INARA, no one could explain to us what was actually wrong with our daughter and how we could treat her,” the father tells us angrily. “INARA explained the medical treatment to us really well, and it reassured us that our daughter was getting the right medical plan.”
At just two and a half years of age, Hanan doesn’t understand what is wrong with her or the implications that this surgery will have on her future. But her parents do, and are really grateful that she is getting the treatment she so desperately needs.
The father hopes that other refugee children with DDH get access to early diagnosis in the future. “I was unfortunate because the hospital that my daughter was born in didn’t detect it at an early stage. That’s mainly because of the massive numbers of refugees there. But I really hope that other families don’t have to go through what we’ve had to…”
INARA launched a new project to help refugee children in Lebanon born with orthopedic deformities like DDH and clubfoot earlier this year. This is a time-limited and fund-limited project, but we hope that by providing them with much-needed treatment we can positively change the lives of a small amount of refugees.