DUBAI // Anas al Tanadi has never been out to play like other boys his age. For six years, the 12-year-old has suffered with an open wound on his foot so severe, doctors feared they may have to amputate. The boy from Tafouh, outside Jericho in the Palestinian Territories, was born with spina bifida and a deformed right foot. As he grew older, his foot twisted 90 degrees outward and to the left, meaning he was walking on the bone.
What should have been a 10-minute walk to school became an agonising 30-minute slog, and six years ago the wound developed on the sole of his foot. Anas was first seen by the orthopaedic surgeon Dr Marc Sinclair during a medical mission to Jericho last year. Dr Sinclair had hoped to operate on Anas in the territories, but soon realised that he would need to get him to Dubai if he was to make any difference.
"I wanted to see if the wound would heal but when I saw him again in May I could see it was only getting much worse," he said. "I didn't realise but the wound had been open for six years. "I knew that if I did the surgery in Jericho, the aftercare would not be sufficient - the physiotherapy, the braces, antibiotics - it would not have been practical." "I wouldn't have wanted to leave him if I wasn't sure the right care would be in place. So I had to bring him to Dubai.
And so, Dr Sinclair's charity, The Little Wings Foundation, joined forces with the Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF) to bring Anas to Dubai for the operation, without which, he would have lost his foot within the next few years. After four-and-a-half hours of surgery, the wound has been treated and a frame screwed to Anas's leg to help it recover over the next two months. The cost of the frame alone, Dh60,000 (US$16,300), would have been impossible to cover in Jericho. Anas will also be given a brace to help him walk.
But the worry is still not over for Anas. The infection in the wound means he will be on antibiotics for up to eight weeks. He may yet need a skin graft to close the raw wound and allow it to heal, but Dr Sinclair will be able to make this judgement only after several more weeks. "During the operation, I still felt I may need to amputate the fifth toe as the infection to the bone was so great," said Dr Sinclair. "But for now, I'm seeing how the foot recovers but I cannot rule out at least amputating the toe."
Just the simplest things in Anas's life have been tough. Teased at school for his disability, Anas only learnt to walk at the age of five. He has never played football, been to the beach or the cinema, things that are commonplace for children in Dubai. In spite of the pain, he smiles as he lies on his hospital bed, with his mother, Rokaya, beside him. His two brothers and father remain at home. "I know I'm lucky to be here," he says. "I am so happy to be here. I know other children in Palestine aren't as lucky as me."
Anas's operation, flights and accommodation have cost several thousand dollars and Dr Sinclair admits that for the same money, he could have helped several children during one of his missions to the Palestinian territories. "But," he says, "we've changed this kid's life for the better and he'd have had his foot amputated in a few years without this surgery." Anas's mother - awaiting with her fourth child - thanks God for the opportunity to heal her son.
"There is a big difference between here and Jericho," she says. "The quality of the doctors and care is so different. In Jericho, of course it's all down to economic problems but I feel very lucky and I thank God." She says that it has been tough to watch her son grow up, unable to "live a normal life". Dr Sinclair is now preparing for his third mission to the territories next month. During his five days at Jericho hospital in May, he carried out 19 operations and saw scores more children in impromptu surgeries.
He is now appealing for people to donate money to buy a Dh55,000 surgical drill, as well as donations of disposable goods such as gloves, knives and needles. The team will also need basic medicines such as painkillers and antibiotics as well as surgical hardware such as plates and screws. The PCRF - with the help of the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation - is preparing to bring 11 more Palestinian children to Dubai this month for surgery which is either not available in the territories or too expensive. They are currently waiting for the letters of acceptance from the authorities.
Every year, the PCRF sends dozens of injured children from the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria for free care abroad and they treat thousands more through visiting missions to the territories and Lebanon. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org To donate to Dr Sinclair's next medical mission or to volunteer with the PCRF, readers can contact: The Little Wings Foundation: email@example.com
PCRF Dubai: firstname.lastname@example.org