“I want to go back to Syria and help to rebuild my country.”

Adnan polaroid INARA

When Adnan was shot in the spine by a sniper in Syria, he lost hope for his future. "I had nobody around me, no friends, nothing," Adnan told us. "I just stayed at home." His mother describes it as a depression that he couldn’t shake.

The Adnan that sits in the INARA offices today is a completely different young man to the one we met last year. He smiles and cracks jokes with the INARA staff. He seems relaxed, confident and happy.

We ask him where he wants to be in five years, and he tells us of all his hopes and dreams.

“First of all I want to go to university. I hope I can study Electronic Engineering in Australia - as I think I’d feel safe and happy there. After university, and if there is peace in Syria, I want to go home and help to rebuild my country.”

The bullet

Adnan was just 14 years old when he was hit with the bullet that lost him the use of his legs. He’d left his family home to buy bread for his parents and younger sisters when a sniper, aiming to kill, shot him in the back.

The bullet narrowly missed his heart, but became lodged in his spinal cord, paralyzing him. As he lay bleeding, the sniper continued to fire at anybody who tried to approach Adnan - to prevent them from helping him.

After a few hours, his father was finally able to get to him. He rushed him to paramedics who cleaned the wound, but they were not able to get him to a hospital until the following day. Adnan was in a critical condition, but since he was shot by a sniper, he was considered with suspicion. His father had no choice left. He had to smuggle him out the country and into Lebanon.

By the time they reached Lebanon a few days later, the bullet wound had become infected, and Adnan fell ill. He was seen by an infectious disease specialist, covered by financial help from an NGO for one and a half years before the infection cleared and he regained the use of his arms.

The same NGO provided him a standing wheelchair, but withdrew their financial support after a year of physiotherapy. The family were unable to afford physiotherapy.

When INARA met Adnan

Adnan INARA Syrian refugee sniper

By the time Adnan was referred to us by his friend and fellow INARA patient, Alaa, the period in which the paralysis could be reversed had passed. But what we could do was provide him with intensive physiotherapy to restore some mobility. INARA bought special standing assistance technology which are strapped to his legs and support his waist to help him stand. The purpose of the physiotherapy was to strengthen his upper body so that he could live a more independent life.

And this is exactly what we see when we see him after a year of treatment. His parents explain to us how active Adnan is. “He does whatever he wants now,” said his father. “Before if he wanted to go out he needed me to help him. Now we rarely see him anymore. He’s always out studying, or fixing phones. At night he always spends time with his friends.”

Adnan has taken up many hobbies as well. You may well remember seeing a blog that we put up a few months back which showcases all of his amazing photography. He also came third place in the Beirut Marathon’s 10KM Special Needs Race. And he also plays basketball and goes to the gym.

“The most important thing to him is that nobody feels sorry for him,” said his father. “He wants his condition to inspire people to work harder.”

Update (March 2017)

In March, Adnan was invited to take part in the Barcelona Marathon by Catalunya Radio and the Generalitat de Catalunya. He completed the full 42 kilometer race and was awarded a medal which he wears with pride. You can see more about this here.