“I felt like life was a living nightmare”
Mayada, 48 years old, is from the suburbs of Damascus in Syria. In 2014, her house was bombed. As a result of her injuries, her leg had to be amputated. She has been living as a refugee in Lebanon for two years and has been fitted with a prosthesis by Handicap International which monitors her progress through regular physiotherapy sessions.
Sat on her bed, Mayada wipes away the tears. The smile with which she welcomed the Handicap International team into her apartment disappeared as soon as she started to talk about the day in January 2015 that turned her life upside down. “We were at home with my husband, my son and my 4-year old daughter. We had gotten used to planes flying over our neighbourhood, usually late morning. But on that particular day, it was only 8.30 a.m. when the bombing started. A missile was dropped on our house. My husband and my daughter were killed instantly and my leg was ripped off. Some people took me to the hospital. I didn’t really realise what was going on, it felt like a living nightmare.”
At the hospital, a nurse informed Mayada of the deaths of her loved ones and that her son had not yet been found. She then realised that one of her legs had been amputated. She didn’t have time to recover because the hospital she was in was also being bombed. The patients were all told to go home. But Mayada’s house had collapsed and there was nowhere to go home to. “I couldn’t leave Ghouta because we were still under the siege which had already lasted three years. We had nothing left: no water, no electricity, no money to buy food.”
Mayada eventually managed to escape this hell on earth through an underground tunnel. “It was a tiny tunnel, just one metre by one metre and a half. I didn’t have a prosthesis or wheelchair at the time, so I was carried the whole way.” Several weeks later Mayada arrived in Lebanon. Handicap International started to help her shortly after her arrival. “We fitted her with a prosthesis and helped her to walk again by giving her rehabilitation sessions,” explains Cynthia, a physiotherapist. Mayada takes hold of Cynthia’s had and takes one step forward, a faint smile returning to her face.