“We could sense that a huge battle was about to take place,” Salwa’s father Ramy tells us. He and his wife, Mariam, both have the same serious look on their face as he explains how he and his family came to Lebanon as refugees. Their faces barely move throughout their tragic story, they just explain it in clear and cold language, as though they are far removed from the actions of their lives.
Fleeing for safety
The family lived in a small village in Syria, just outside a city that was contested between two warring sides. “We saw the arms coming in through our village every single day. There were trucks filled with weapons and we knew something huge was coming soon.”
That day, Ramy and Mariam lay in bed at night and talked about what they should do: should they stay in their home and hope for the best, or leave their home behind and flee to Lebanon for safety? It was a difficult decision because they knew that their journey to Lebanon would be dangerous.
The next morning they spoke to both sets of their parents and begged them to join them but they refused. They felt that they would be safer in their own homes than to risk everything to get to Lebanon. But Ramy and Mariam couldn’t shake the feeling of despair that sat in their stomachs, and so they hugged their parents and said goodbye, not knowing if they would ever see them again.
Their journey to Lebanon
The family got out of their village and passed by the nearest city to them. As soon as they got out of the city they heard the horrifying noise of a battle beginning in the distance. With every bullet and every bomb they thought of their parents, praying that they would be safe.
The family then trekked from their city to Lebanon. “We had to negotiate our way through so many checkpoints,” Mariam explains to us. “We soon became experts at knowing which side you need to appeal to in order to pass through without getting shot,” she adds, a sarcastic smile crossing her face.
The family hiked across the mountainous border between Syria and Lebanon at night. “The darkness was the scariest part of that journey,” both parents agree. Their children were frightened and they couldn’t see a thing. But luckily they managed to find their way to Lebanon eventually.
A few weeks after they arrived in Lebanon, Ramy heard from his brother. “My mother and sister were the only ones left in the village when the battle arrived there. My brother came back for them and found the house completely empty. There were bullet holes all over the walls and the entire place smelled of gunpowder.”
For weeks, the family thought that they had killed in the battle. But there was some joy left for them, when they discovered that they had both managed to escape at the last minute and were both safe.
Salwa was born
Salwa was born in Lebanon a few years after the family fled. They hoped and prayed that their new daughter would have a happier life than what they had all experienced during the war in Syria. “We live in a relatively nice house, compared to others we’ve lived in,” the family tell us.
But their hopes and dreams for their daughter’s future were dashed when doctors diagnosed her with developmental dislocation of the hip (DDH) when she was 14 months old. “It wasn’t the first time we had heard of this condition,” Mariam tells us. “Many other families we know had the same condition. Some of them managed to fund successful surgeries and some didn’t.”
Because Salwa was diagnosed aged 14 months old, this was relatively late, and would mean that she would likely need to have a surgery – something that the family could not afford. “We felt so guilty that we didn’t notice sooner,” Mariam said.
Salwa’s parents were told to speak to Dr Taha at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC), who said that the family should contact INARA.
We agreed a medical plan with the family and AUBMC. Salwa will need a salter osteotomy, which involves sawing the middle pelvic bone (the salter) to help the femur bone attach to the joints. Dr Taha also informed us that she may need a further surgery following this – but that the doctors will closely monitor her progress.
Now that this has been agreed with Salwa’s parents, they can imagine a happier future for her child. It is only as a result of our new orthopedics project that Salwa could access this kind of medical treatment in Lebanon – which is too expensive for the majority of the refugee population.
Salwa's treatment was funded by UNICEF.