14-year old Cham misses gossiping with her friends. “I miss my friends in Syria,” she says mournfully. “We would sit in my house and talk about everything. Ever since the bombing in our village I haven’t seen them. We stay in touch over WhatsApp but it’s not the same.”
Cham was only 11-years old when a bomb exploded right next to her grandmother’s house, where she staying at the time. “It was 8 at night and very dark,” she recalls. “I was making tea and carrying it to my grandmother. When the bomb went off, I was so startled I dropped the boiling pot of tea onto my arm.”
As soon as the bomb went off, the electricity in the house cut out. Cham was so shocked by the airstrike that it was only when her grandmother lit a candle to check her arm that Cham realized how bad the burn was.
“I instantly began to scream when I saw how bad it was. I was rushed out of the house and we tried to get to the nearest hospital but we couldn’t get through the checkpoints.” The family had to take Cham to the pharmacy on their street, who cleaned the burn and put a dressing on it.
After Cham was injured, her parents realized that they couldn’t stay in Syria any longer. Cham remembers waving her friends off, fearful for her own future, and even more scared that the next time she returned to Syria she would find all her friends dead.
Since the accident, Cham admits she has changed a lot. “Every time I look in the mirror and see my arm I feel angry and upset at the world.” Her mother adds that her daughter has become really moody. “She’s scared about anything to do with medicine. I remember trying to change her dressing shortly after her injury and she would run away and hide.”
Cham has five sisters and two brothers. She is the middle child. They all live in a small apartment in the mountains in Lebanon. “It’s small and cramped but at least we have a roof over our heads,” her mother adds.
Cham’s medical treatment
When Cham came in, our team of doctors at the American University of Beirut Medical Center examined the burns on her elbow to see if they restricted her movement. They found that they didn’t restrict her mobility. However, doctors noticed that if she did not have a scar revision surgery, the scarring on her elbow would likely cause cancer, potentially threatening her life.
As a result her surgery was booked in speedily, just over three weeks after her case was first referred to us. The surgery took around four hours, and Cham was discharged the next day. Last week she came in for a follow-up at the hospital, and doctors informed her that she was healing well and things were looking good. She will continue to have regular follow-ups over the coming weeks and months.
Cham and her family long to return to Syria one day. In the meantime, they are encouraging Cham to continue studying hard at the school she attends in Lebanon. “We just hope that she will finish her education and become a productive member of our Syrian community,” they tell us, proud of their brave daughter.
Cham’s case is an unusual one for INARA. We normally focus on life-altering surgeries that prevent disability or enable mobility. In this instance, our surgery prevented the young girl from contracting cancer in the future, potentially threatening her life.
There are many refugee children from Syria in Lebanon that are in dire need of medical help. You can do your bit by donating today.
UNICEF contributed to Cham's treatment.