x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Dreams of a walk along beach for young Oday

A child injured by a bomb blast in Gaza has been fitted for a new leg in Dubai.

Oday Al Jamal, 12, a Palestinian boy brought over to the UAE for free surgery, with Wendelin Lauxen, left, and Dr Marc Sinclair at the Medcare Hospital in Dubai.
Oday Al Jamal, 12, a Palestinian boy brought over to the UAE for free surgery, with Wendelin Lauxen, left, and Dr Marc Sinclair at the Medcare Hospital in Dubai.

DUBAI // Oday Al Jamal was five years old when he lost his right leg in a bomb blast that also badly wounded his left limb.

Seven years later, the Palestinian youngster now dreams of running along the beach as he recovers from a four-hour operation he had a few weeks ago in Dubai.

Early yesterday, the 12-year-old schoolboy sat anxiously at Medcare Hospital waiting for a cast on his right leg to be removed.

And, in a couple of days, Oday will be fitted with a new prosthetic leg, which means he will soon be able to learn how to walk again.

Volunteer doctors offered to treat Oday for free, through two non-profit organisations, the Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF) and The Little Wings Foundation.

The paediatric orthopaedic surgeon Dr Marc Sinclair, founder of The Little Wings Foundation, had performed an earlier surgery to correct a growth problem in the knee caused by the shrapnel.

Oday was in good spirits yesterday, thinking about the day he could play along the Dubai shores.

"I really want to go to the beach this Friday," he beamed, after learning his new host family lives near the water.

Sitting by Oday's bedside after the cast was removed, Dr Sinclair said the young boy had been through a traumatic experience.

"He is healing well. His leg has been in a cast for several weeks so he'll require exercise and prosthesis. After that, he will need rehabilitation," he said. "It's not easy for him. We want to send him home to familiar surroundings but it's about compromise; we need him to be ready."

The prosthetic leg was donated by Wendelin Lauxen, managing director of Limblech Orthapaedic Technology, who also raised Dh25,000 towards Oday's treatment after running across the Emirates for charity last December.

"It took a total of 12 days, beginning in Dubai and ending up in Abu Dhabi and sleeping in the car in between," said Mr Lauxen. "It was a very satisfying experience because it helped Oday."

He plans to raise more funds again on December 23 for more children and invites the public to join him.

Dr Sinclair said it was such support that made their operations possible.

"When you see how the money is being spent, when you look at Oday, for example, and what it has done for him - this is what we stand for," he said.

"These procedures can cost up to Dh500,000 but with donations, wheelchairs and prosthetics, our costs drop dramatically, sometimes to Dh50,000."

Oday was one of five Palestinian children flown to the UAE in September, all in need of urgent medical care. PCRF has 19 chapters worldwide and also facilitates the travel of doctors to the Palestinian Territories to deliver free medical aid through weekly missions in the West Bank and Gaza.

Iman Odeh Yabroudi, UAE coordinator for the PCRF, said they were hoping Oday would need no further surgeries to his legs.

"Our social workers locate and identify the cases and then liaise with local hospitals in collaboration with the Palestine Ministry of Health. After that, we match them with the right medical mission that we bring from outside Palestine," said Mrs Yabroudi. "Only cases that cannot be operated on locally will be transported to international medical missions."

Aileen Culligan, spokesman for The Little Wings Foundation, said while local response had been good, further donations were needed.

"Orthopaedic operations by their very nature can be very expensive. With more money, we would be in a position to treat more children in the UAE, throughout the Mena region, and facilitate more missions to Palestine with PCRF," said Ms Culligan. "We need another surgical set for example, as the sterilisers in the hospitals on the surgical missions constantly break down causing time delays so that we cannot operate on as many children as we would like to."