Qusay: Syrian Teen Walks Again after Double Amputation

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Qusay is 14 years old, but he’s already an adult in the eyes of many. In the past two-and-a-half years, he’s survived a bombing in Syria and the loss of both legs, adjusted to life as a refugee in Jordan, and fought to regain the ability to walk—all with stoicism.

“He doesn’t want us to feel sorry for him,” says Sana, his mother. “And he never gives up, that’s probably what makes me most proud of him.” 

The teenager is walking in the sun outside a health center in Irbid, Jordan. Salam, a Handicap International physical therapist who has cared for Qusay since he arrived in Jordan, follows him patiently, encouraging him as he makes his first steps. It isn’t easy, but Qusay is not giving up. His face lights up in a broad grin as he puts his crutches aside and, holding on to the center’s ramp, takes a few steps.

“I was sitting outside my house when an air raid started,” says Qusay, remembering the day he was injured in September 2013. “There was chaos and then I blacked out. When I woke up, I was on the ground and two people came running towards me. They brought me to a hospital.” Qusay’s legs were pulverized. His injuries were so serious he was transferred to a hospital in northern Jordan where he underwent six operations in six weeks.

Handicap International staff got in touch with Qusay and his family during his hospital stay and took measurements so he could be fitted with artificial legs. Qusay was thrilled by the idea that he might walk again. He began doing physical therapy with Salam in order to regain the strength and balance necessary to use prostheses.  

With Salam’s support, Qusay has made great progress. “Now, I can do many things on my own like go to the market and wash myself,” says Qusay. “I don’t have to depend on anyone.  

“Today, I’ve gone from four legs to two,” he says looking at his crutches propped in a corner of the room.  

“It’s very difficult to learn to walk after a double amputation,” says Salam. “Not only has Qusay managed it, he can even walk without crutches now. It shows how strong he is, and how far he’s come.”  Qusay looks at the floor and smiles, a little embarrassed by all the attention. Whether he knows it or not, his progress is an inspiration to everyone he meets.

Soon, Qusay will be able to attend school again. “I’d like to be a poet,” he says. “I discovered poetry at school in Syria. My favorite poems are about wisdom and life.” One thing is for sure—Qusay has gained enough life experience and wisdom over the last few years to inspire countless poems.