A refugee from Aleppo, little Maya Merhii gets an assist from Turkey.
Life can often be challenging enough in a refugee camp, even without the additional restraints brought about by disabilities. For 8-year-old Maya Merhi, a Syrian girl who resides in a sprawling refugee camp in Northern Syria, the day begins with a 300-meter walk to school on improvised prosthetic legs.
The Independent reports that Maya suffers a congenital condition, which led to her being born without legs. Mohammad Merhi, her father, who shares her condition, explained that his daughter could get around well enough by crawling, until a recent surgery that further reduced the length of her legs made this impossible.
“My heart suffers when I see her crawling in front of friends, while they play and run,” said Mr Merhi. “In order for her to move out of the tent, I had the idea to fix on her limbs tubing stuffed with a spongy material to reduce the pressure. “Then I added two empty cans of tuna because the plastic was not strong enough to resist the friction with the ground.”
The tubing needed to be replaced once a month, while the tuna cans would only last about a week. These makeshift legs, however, allowed Maya to walk, albeit with a certain amount of difficulty.
After seeing a report of Maya’s plight, Turkish prosthetic specialist Mehmet Zeki Culcu was moved to donate his time and know-how to give professionally made prosthetic legs not just to Maya, but to her father as well. Culcu seemed especially moved by the efforts of Mr Merhi, commenting, “He did everything to make this child walk and God helped them. Normally nobody would believe she could walk with these makeshift limbs.”
The Telegraph notes that Dr. Culcu added, “We can’t really call what she has prosthetics. It’s a kind of makeshift system for her to walk. With the energy of desperation, without any means, her father turned that suffering into hope.”
Dr. Culcu has dismissed offers to help with the cost, stating that he would bear the burden himself.
This video shows still-shots of how Maya is getting along with her new prosthetic legs: