Romania: JRS helps Iraqi refugee find treatment and hope

24 October 2016

Mohamad smiles on his hospital bed after the second operation to mend his damaged leg in Bucharest, Romania.
Mohamad smiles on his hospital bed after the second operation to mend his damaged leg in Bucharest, Romania. (Jesuit Refugee Service)

Bucharest- Mohamad is an Iraqi teenager who took refuge in Romania in 2014 when he was 15 years old. He had to flee because of protracted conflict in his home country that persists to this day, according to reports in the international press. During an attack, his parents were killed in front of him. Mohamad was shot in the legs but the surgery performed in poor conditions at a hospital in Iraq managed to worsen the situation of his wound.

In 2014, JRS Romania was conducting a European Refugee Fund project delivering social assistance for refugees across the country. There, they travelled to Giurgiu where they met Mohamad at the reception centre of the General Inspectorate for Immigration.

The JRS team was impressed by his story but shocked by his wounds that constantly festered making him unable to walk. JRS Romania reacted by trying to get him to access the necessary health care but his situation was constantly worsening. An action was needed in order to save his leg from being amputated. JRS Romania took a stand against authorities so that Mohamad could be transferred when needed to Bucharest for specialized medical treatment.

JRS Romania eventually raised the necessary funds (around 2,000 euros) for surgery in a private hospital, the only hospital that could provide the proper treatment. On 8 February 2016, a stent graft was implanted in the popliteal artery. The medical intervention was successful and the doctors recommend antiplatelet treatment and medical rehabilitation.

Sitting on his hospital bed, two days after the operation, Mohamad said: “I want to thank all the people that helped me with everything. Thanks to those sharing my story, telling the world that we are all people. Thanks to Dr. Burnei for operating on me, and for everything. Thanks for Bursa Binelui (Stock Exchange of Good, the online platform for the fundraising campaign) and to the people that donated. Because of them I had my leg fixed. Thank you, thank you…”

JRS Romania legal officer, Luiza Mutu who closely followed Mohamad’s case said: “The first time I met Mohamad I saw a child that was frightened and in pain, but hadn’t lost hope. While his situation was improving he was slowly turning from a kid to a teenager, hoping for a normal life. We made the first step in helping him reach his dream for a normal life, but more hard steps are ahead. I am glad that the first surgery was successful and I wish him to just be happy.”

The first surgery repaired the blood vessels in his wounded leg and a second surgery recently repaired the bone and ligaments. Other surgeries will be needed in the future to reconstruct part of the ligaments and tissue in the foot in order for Mohamad to be able to fully use his foot and walk on it completely.

In June 2016, JRS Romania launched a fundraising campaign on the on-line platform Bursa Binelui in order to collect funds for the necessary surgery, as staff continued to accompany Mohamad.

Today, Mohamad is out of hospital and back in Giurgiu, at the foster home where he lives. The first cast was removed and replaced last week, and the second cast will stay on for another one to two months. Afterwards, the recovery program will begin and hopefully he will start walking again in the following months. He is very happy now that the surgery is over and is waiting for the next round of treatment so that he may one day walk freely again.