Due to a congenital condition, eight-year-old Maya Merhi was born with no legs. Earlier this month, a picture of the Syrian girl went global. It shows her moving around a Syrian displaced persons camp on artificial limbs made of plastic tubing and tin cans.
After witnessing AFP pictures of her plight, she was brought to Istanbul for treatment. And her life just might change.
“Maya will walk,” said Dr Mehmet Zeki Culcu, the prosthesis specialist treating her at an Istanbul clinic. “God willing, in three months time.”
Maya is from Aleppo region. She had been living with her father at a camp for displaced people in Idlib, victims of Syria’s over seven-year civil war.
Her father Mohammad Merhi, 34, also shares the same disability known as congenital amputation. It means a person is born without lower limbs. He put together the homemade prosthesis for his daughter.
The Turkish Red Crescent intervened after the pictures of her shuffling with difficulty around the refugee camp made a huge impact. Both father and daughter were expatriated from Syria by the Turkish authorities and brought to Istanbul for treatment at a specialized clinic.
Maya, like her father, had been able to move around more easily by crawling. But recent surgery, which further reduced the length of her limbs, had obstructed this
“After the operation, she was not able to move around and was sitting the whole time in a tent,” Mohammad told AFP in an interview at the Istanbul clinic.
“In order for her to move out of the tent, I had the idea to fix on her limbs tubing, stuffed with a spongy material to reduce the pressure. Then, I added two empty cans of tuna because the plastic was not strong enough to resist the friction with the ground,” he told reporters. He added that he replaced the plastic tubing once a month and the tins once a week.
Maya walked outside of the tent and would even go on her own to the camp’s school with the makeshift prosthesis. Mohammad also has five other children. None of them suffer from the condition.
Her father will also be given prosthetic legs at the Turkish clinic. But it’s the providence of his daughter that he is worried about.“It’s more important that she can walk so that she is autonomous. It would be like a new life for us,” he said. “I dream of seeing her walk, going to school and back without suffering,” he added.
Dr Culcu said he had been “very touched” by the pictures of Maya walking on her tins and had decided to take on the cost of her prosthetic legs and those of her father.
“We have been contacted by people all over the world who want to make the donation. But this issue is closed and I will take on the cost,” he said.
Picture Credit: Daily Sabah
Apoorva Lamba is an intern with SheThePeople.Tv