Sama scoliosis INARA Syrian refugees Arwa Damon

When we first met Sama last year, she lived under the shadow of knowing that she didn’t have much time left before she would become permanently paralyzed. When we first met her, she sat patiently with her mother, glancing from time to time at the clock ticking away. The reality that there was very little time left overwhelmed her.

The 15-year old girl sat before us today no longer has such a burden on her young shoulders. “I now have the comfort of knowing that my daughter is healthy again and can go on with life,” her mother tells us gratefully.

Sama’s scoliosis

Sama has scoliosis – an abnormal curvature in the normally straight vertical line of the spine. This is something that Sama was likely born with.

When we introduced her to doctors at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) and heard her story, there is no doubt that her condition was exacerbated by the war in Syria. The doctors told us that she might never have noticed her condition were it not for having to flee her country.

The Syrian War

When fighting broke out in their hometown, the family fled to a nearby area. It took them five days to reach the area by foot. Sama remembers the whole family trying to carry as many belongings as they could. Her back suffered, and she cried a lot on the journey as she felt agonizing stabbing pains in her lower back.

The sound of gunfire followed them. The whole family was terrified. Sama vividly remembers this. “Those scenes will never leave my mind. People were at the side of the road, screaming for help and dying. I was so afraid.”

Once they finally arrived, they found absolute devastation. It was the epicenter of violence at the time, and they had no choice but to try and find somewhere else to go. So the family headed to the southern countryside near the border with Lebanon.

The only option they had was to flee once again, this time crammed in a car with 12 other people, driving as fast as they could out of Syria - leaving behind their friends, their house, their school, careers. Everything.

How INARA helped

Sama’s surgery was hugely complicated and expensive. Doctors had to surgically correct her spine, and insert metal screws to make her spine straighter. The surgery was extremely expensive (costing INARA over $30,000), and Sama’s family, as refugees, would never have been able to afford this.

Sama’s family went to everyone to try and find help, but found no one. They family were eventually put in touch with us by local NGO Mousawat.

A brighter future in Holland

Before her surgery, Sama wasn’t able to go to school because she was in so much pain from her back. “Everything hurt before,” Sama tells us. “Any activity would make me feel lots of pain. But I’m so much better now. I can do everything I want. I’m pain free!” Sama has returned to school, and is enjoying it a lot.

The family recently found out that they would be resettled in the Netherlands very soon. Sama is excited to start a new life in Europe. At present, the family live in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, and they look forward to having a more comfortable life in Europe.

Fixing Sama’s spine was one of the most expensive surgeries we have ever paid for at INARA. We could only do this thanks to the generosity of our amazing supporters. This achievement is one that we share with you.