Rema, 13, had her leg amputated after being trapped in the earthquake that struck Turkey and northwest Syria. Followed-up at the Aqrabat hospital, one of HI’s partners, she was recently fitted with her first prosthesis | © HI
On 6 February, Rema was trapped under the rubble of her home. Found alive after thirty hours, doctors had to amputate her leg. She talked to us about her experience.
As Rema recalls 6 February 2023, she has to fight back the tears. She will never forget the day when, she says, she lost everything: the two people closest to her heart, her father and her niece. Last February, she told our teams what happened to her:
“We were asleep, and we felt a violent earthquake, especially since we were on the third floor. The higher up you are, the more you feel the shocks. It was extremely violent. Our door was shut. It took a while to release it. I opened the door for my parents, and we left together. My parents were still in the stairwell as I reached the entrance to the building. That’s when something fell on me. I tried to get up, but I couldn’t. Then there was an aftershock and the whole roof collapsed on top of me, so I couldn't get out. My family made it out.
I was trapped there, and I started shouting. My sister heard me. She went down to tell our relatives that I was still alive. They came back and started to clear the rubble around me. They began by freeing my arm and hair. They dug towards me. There was a dead body right next to me. A child who must have been about twelve years old. I was in a lot of pain because I'd been crushed by the rubble. They managed to clear the space around me and that gave me some relief. They brought me some water and some juice to drink. I was under the rubble for thirty hours.”
Rema’s leg had been crushed under the rubble and she was amputated at the scene before being rushed to hospital. She needed several operations on her leg before she could start her first physiotherapy sessions. Followed-up at the Aqrabat hospital, HI's partner in north-west Syria, the teenager was able to count on the support of the entire medical team, including doctors, physiotherapists and psychologists. Her physiotherapist, Fatima, explains how, over the months, she developed a strong bond with Rema:
“I felt I had to be with her every step of the way. I came up with a plan in my head that we had to follow. I knew it was going to take a long time. However, I was determined to believe that Rema would walk again because I felt that she had the strength and the will to achieve the goal we had set ourselves. For me, Rima isn't just a patient, she's also a friend and even more than that. It makes me very happy to see her walking again."
After months of recovery and rehabilitation, Rema was able to try on her first prosthetic lower limb last month. It was an emotional mix of stress and happiness.
“I was pleased at the idea of being able to walk on my own again, to go to school, and to do the things I wanted to do at home. But at the same time, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to cope with the prosthesis, that I would limp, that I wouldn't be able to walk as well as before, that it would be a liability.”
Rema is now proud to be able to move around independently and is getting on with her life... "almost" as she used to. She has also passed her school certificate with flying colours. It was her father's wish, she says, "that she had a duty to fulfil" in his memory.
Since 6 February in the regions of Idlib and Northern Aleppo, HI’s health teams (HI staff and HI partners) have been providing emergency response in thirteen hospitals and thirteen collective shelters. In all, 10,500 injured people were assessed and provided with rehabilitation services for a total of more than 22,000 sessions. The organisation has also supplied 8,000 mobility aids, as well as 300 prostheses and orthoses. Psychosocial support teams were able to provide psychological first aid to 8,300 people in the Idlib and Northern Aleppo regions. Some 3,500 people also benefited from awareness-raising sessions on the dangers of explosive devices, as well as earthquake safety messages.