“I didn’t imagine I’d walk again”

Ahlam* is a 70-year-old Palestinian refugee who lives in Al-Buss refugee camp in Tyre, South Lebanon. A few months ago, she fell down the stairs and broke her hip. The doctor told her that she needed a hip replacement.

After the surgery, Ahlam was not able to move her legs; she couldn’t get out of bed. Even though the doctor advised her to undergo regular physiotherapy sessions, she didn’t listen and stayed in bed for three weeks. “Any movement was too painful and I didn’t imagine that I would be able to walk again. I preferred to stay lying down and accept my new situation,” she explained.

Her condition was not improving so her sister sought the assistance of the Sour Community Disability Project (SCDP) Centre, run by the Palestinian Women’s Humanitarian Organisation (PWHO) in Al-Buss camp. It was established with MAP’s help back in 1998, and MAP continues to support its work today to help senior Palestinian refugees in Lebanon maintain or regain independence after traumatic injuries.

The specialist at the SCDP physiotherapy centre visited Ahlam at home and performed an assessment on her condition. The physiotherapists discussed with her an intervention plan and together they agreed a schedule for the sessions.

“They are very kind and thoughtful. They knew I couldn’t walk to the centre and don’t have children to assist me or drive me, so they suggested to provide me with home-based physiotherapy sessions,” said Ahlam.

The physiotherapist started visiting Ahlam three times a week and taught her a few exercises she could do alone. “She [the physiotherapist] is very kind and patient. She talks to me and encourages me. I feel optimistic when she visits,” Ahlam added.

After a short period, Ahlam started moving her legs, then standing with assistance, and then walking a few steps. The team provided her with a walker, which encouraged her to start moving inside the house, and later on, walking around the house. “For people my age, going outside and talking to people is very important. Staying in bed will only make things worse,” she explained.

Today, three months after her surgery, Ahlam walked all the way to SCDP centre. She wanted to thank SCDP and MAP in person for all the help they provided her. According to Ahlam, providing free rehabilitation sessions or other health services to people her age is crucial as it prevents them from feeling that they are a ‘burden’ to people around them. Ahlam hopes that the project expands and continues to assist all who need these vital services.

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Written by Wafa Dakwar, Medical Aid for Palestinians' (MAP’s) Senior Programme Officer in Lebanon

*Name changed to protect identity