Student Yousef Abu Omaira fitted with robotic arm in Thailand thanks to funding
Palestinian born without arms and legs thanks Sheikh Mohammed for new life
A young Palestinian man born with no arms and legs is returning to home after being sent to Thailand for treatment by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
After coming to know of his case, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, who is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, ordered 21-year-old Yousef Abu Omaira be given the best treatment options available worldwide.
After less than a year in a Bangkok hospital, Yousef now has a robotic arm and electric wheelchair to help rebuild his life. A house and car modified for his disability is also awaiting him.
“I have had all my dreams come true, even things I had never imagined,” said Yousef, speaking to The National from Thailand.
“It all started when I got that phone call last year saying Sheikh Mohammed wanted to support me.”
The 21-year-old from Gaza is the epitome of the overcoming-disability-and-succeeding story.
He loathes pity, and has taught himself to be independent from a young age.
“I never saw myself as disabled or handicapped as many have labelled me,” he said.
“I didn’t see a reason to hide in shame in my house, even though I’m constantly being stared at, pitied and ridiculed.
“I have no arms and legs. but I’ve achieved more in life than many who have arms and legs.”
Yousef is in his third year and one of the top students at his university in Gaza. He reads, writes, studies, researches on his computer, texts, chats on the phone and lives a semi normal life despite his disability.
Before his robotic arm was fitted, Yousef would write by supporting a pen between his stump and cheek.
“I’m proud of myself and actually grateful to be born this way even more so now more than ever,” he said.
“Part of the joy in life is overcoming obstacles and I have overcome so many.”
Yousef has struggled with stairs and public transport most of his life. At least twice a day, he would use his chest to push himself up and down stairs of the apartment he lived in with his parents and two sisters.
Although almost fully independent, Yousef needed family help in daily routines like changing clothes, brushing his teeth and eating - and had a manual wheelchair before visiting Thailand.
He now has an electric wheelchair, provided by Sheikh Mohammed.
“I would go up and down 45 to 50 steps which really hurts my chest and is very difficult, especially during the winter,” he said.
“No taxi would ever stop for me when they see my condition.”
“With the robotic arm I can do these things on my own. I had longed for this; I know it might seem small but it was a big thing for me.”
Because of the weight of a single robotic arm and the strain on Yousef’s neck and back, doctors decided that clinically, he needed only one arm to achieve his goals.
Robotic or prosthetic legs could not be attached because Yousef did not have enough tissue or bone to attach them to. His latest ambition is to finish his education and thank those who have helped him.
“I don’t want anything more in life,” he said.
“All I want now is to meet Sheikh Mohammed, kiss his hands and thank him for everything he has done for me.
“In my country people don’t accept people like me. Unlike the UAE, we have no facilities. Things like ramps are unheard of.
“They still call us handicapped so for a ruler to do all this for me is nothing anyone could dream of.”
Yousef no longer relies on his mother’s help.
“Seeing Yousef as soon as he was born was a shock of a lifetime,” said mum Huda Abu Omaira, 56.
“Throughout my pregnancy doctors never told me there was anything wrong with him. Only a day before I gave birth they told me that he might suffer from a disability.
“You can imagine how it was like when I first saw him. Yousef has always been independent. “He was never difficult or tiring.
“He always dreamt of having an arm to write and hold things better. I prayed for him day and night and Allah has answered my prayers through Sheikh Mohammed.”
Both parents have travelled to Thailand with Yousef, who was the first such case to be sent by the government there for treatment.
UAE Ambassador to Thailand, Saif Abdullah Al Shamsi said that Yousef had been receiving the best treatment available worldwide.
“His treatment is coming to an end and we are proud of his development and progress,” said Mr Al Shamsi.