“Salim can’t stand to be away from me since the injury,” his father tells us in the office. His one-year old son sits on his lap and constantly blows his father kisses. Every now and again he scratches the burns on his neck, and the father tries to stop him. Eventually he passes Salim over to his wife, who continually tries to prevent him from scratching his scars the whole time that we talk with them.
Four months ago
Salim’s accident happened just four months ago in the small room they live in as Syrian refugees in Lebanon. His father came home from a long day at work, and asked his wife if she could make him some tea to help him wake up so. He wanted to stay up and spend some quality time with his family. He works long hours and so doesn’t get to see his family often.
His wife came out and placed the tea on the table. “I remember vividly that she told me to be careful where to put my tea, since Salim was crawling about in the room. But I was so tired and didn’t really listen…”
Suddenly the room was full of noise, as Salim knocked the tea off the table. Boiling water spilt over his neck, burning him badly. His father is visibly upset as he tells us about what happened. He looks down at his son who is looking at pictures of the other children we have worked with dotted around the office, and he reaches over and squeezes his small hand.
Trying to find help
The father picked his son up, and rushed him to the nearest pharmacy. There he was told that Salim needed to urgently go to the hospital as the burns were so severe. So the father grabbed a taxi to the hospital, while his son cried into his arms. When they finally reached the hospital they were told that they couldn’t help because the father and son didn’t have the right papers on them. They were then told to go to another hospital who might be able to help, where he was eventually treated. There they cleaned the burn and put a dressing on it.
Since the burns healed, Salim has tight scars that pull his neck into place, making it difficult for him to move. His family had resigned themselves to the fact that he would always struggle to move his neck, until their social worker at Doctors Without Borders recommended that they contact INARA.
Shortly after the family first called us, we arranged for Salim to come to the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) for a medical assessment. Our doctors explained that the contraction of his burn scars are creating extreme functionality limitations, which would cause problems for Salim as he grows older. He would need a scar release surgery, which INARA quickly booked in a few weeks from now.
Hopes for the future
The family left Syria many years ago, fearing for their lives. “I felt nothing when I left Syria,” his mother explains to us. “I don’t know why. Maybe it was because I was stressed or anxious about the future, but I felt nothing as the bus crossed from Syria into Lebanon and I left behind my country.”
The family live in a small room in the suburbs of a city in Lebanon. Summer is extremely humid there and the family’s small room gets extremely hot. “We really wish our room wasn’t so hot but we can’t complain. We’re doing alright compared to other refugees in Lebanon.”
Salim’s parents have big dreams for their little boy. “I wish him a life full of happiness and success. But first we need to make sure he gets better, and that he can move his neck again. After the surgery I think he will be alright again.”
The father pauses as he tells us this. “Wow,” he says, staring out of the window for a moment to stop himself from crying. “You cannot imagine how happy I am and how thankful I am that he will be happy and won’t have to suffer anymore.”
UNICEF contributed to Salim's treatment.