7-year-old from Baghdad learning to walk again after terror attack
The first time Shahad Salah started walking on her own she was 1 year and 2 days old.
Wednesday afternoon, the 7-year-old girl from Baghdad began learning how to walk all over again.
The natural activity must be relearned while wearing an artificial limb that replaces Shahad’s left leg, which she lost in a rocket attack in Baghdad.
The new beginning proved challenging, but successful.
Shahlaa Sadoon Hummadi, Shahad’s mother, carried her daughter into the therapy room at Yanke Bionics in Akron. About 90 minutes later, Shahlaa and her brother, Amir Hummadi, held Shahad’s hands as she walked out.
Over the next three to four weeks, Shahad will continue therapy with Yanke and visits with Canton orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Riester as she works toward returning home.
Help in America
Shahad had her legs mangled in a terrorist rocket attack on her grandparent’s Baghdad home last March 29. She lost her left leg, and her right leg was injured.
After several surgeries in Iraq, Shahad’s family worked with Kent-based Palestine Children’s Relief Fund to have her come to the United States to be fitted for a artificial leg. She came to Northeast Ohio because her uncle Amir lives in a Cleveland suburb.
The process became complicated after the staff at Yanke saw Shahad’s right leg. It was twisted and needed surgery to be straightened. That was done at Aultman Hospital in January by orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Reister.
Following the surgery, Shahad and Brianna Montini — daughter of Kevin Montini, a certified prosthetist with Yanke — became friends. Brianna, 7, visited Shahad at Aultman, helping her recover. Her classmates at Sauder Elementary School in Jackson, made “get well” cards for Shahad.
Ready to walk
Shahad’s new leg is state-of-the-art, with a carbon fiber foot and mechanical knee that works like a human’s knee. Montini said parts for the leg have been donated by manufacturers. Likewise, Yanke is donating its services.
Shahad doesn’t hesitate when given the chance after nearly a year to walk again.
She quickly learned how to pull on a suspension liner. The rubber liner has a metal pin at the end that locks Shahad’s leg into the artificial limb.
Then she stands. There are few “ows” and grimaces, but no hesitation. Balanced between parallel bars and guided by certified prosthetist Dave Reed, Shahad begins walking.
Of course, her body has forgotten what once had been automatic. Reed teaches her to kick the prosthetic limb forward. She must start with the artificial foot balanced on toes and land on the heel, just as anyone else would when they walk. She needs to remember to keep her back straight.
Throughout the session, Shahlaa and Amir offer encouragement and translate Reed’s instructions into Arabic. Shahad answers in both Arabic and English, talking to Reed and her family.
Shahad then insists on walking by herself between the bars. There are a few false starts, but the steps become smoother. “Perfect,” Montini tells her.
The process won’t be easy, Montini told Shahlaa and Amir. Shahad will need to practice. But he’s confident.
“She’s going to get the hang of this OK. The first time you try it’s frustrating,” Montini tells Shahlaa. “But something’s going to click.”