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Medical miracles: Child burn victims in Syria brought to US for last shot at life

She is nothing short of a medical miracle.

It was sometime in 2016, amid the scourge of the Syrian war. One moment, then-15-year-old Hamama was playing in the mountains with her animals in her poor family’s remote farm in the Homs countryside. In the next moment all of her family, much of her memory, and almost her entire face was gone.

But thanks to the U.S advocacy group Burnt Children’s Relief Foundation (BCRF) and American medical professionals, with support from the State Department to navigate the murky and complex terrain of visa red tape, Syrian children like Hamama have a second chance to repair the pieces of their broken bodies and lives.

“Today is a new nose,” said the softly spoken Hamama, who appears far tinier than her newly turned 18 years.

She has been blinded in one eye, her skin burned raw and her hair all gone, and each breath is not without a struggle. A glance at her own reflection in the mirror is still haunted by a momentary wince, only there are no tear ducts left for weeping.

Meanwhile, the UCLA prosthodontist, Dr. Christine Fortmann, delicately paints a replica of Hamama’s skin tone onto the carefully sculpted silicone. It’s her fourth prosthetic nose appointment – the next time she will likely get to go home with her coveted facial feature. And while Hamama will have to remove it every night and while showering, but the thought of having a nose-by-appearance is enough to bring a rare smile to the young woman’s tragically seared face.

“This has been a challenge because normally we draw to match a patient’s real nose, but in this case we had nothing. Not even a photograph. But helping in this way is the whole reason I went into this profession,” Fortmann said. “It’s not just a science, it is also art.”

Horrific burns have long become synonymous with the Syrian Civil War, now stretching into its eighth year, with children all too often the victims of the regime’s arbitrary and deadly “barrel bombs” – bombs comprised of a large container stuffed with gasoline, nails, and chunks of steel and tossed from a helicopter.

Thousands of Syrian children have lost their lives and thousands more have been severely wounded. For those charred in the ongoing fighting, especially in opposition-held areas, there is little help or recourse. But since 2016, BCRF has treated twenty Syrian children in the United States, with the aid of Shriners Hospital in Galveston, Texas and Pasadena, California, along with other partners such as UCLA for nose and eyes issues…Continue Reading

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