By Sandra Chang
April 20, 2013
GRAND RAPIDS, MI—Hamzah Al-Daeni, a 9-year-old Iraqi boy who lost his right leg and part of his stomach after a missile struck his house in Bagdad, smiles with his big brown eyes and listens intently as his father, Imad Al-Daeni, describes the pair's return trip to Grand Rapids - and how their lives have changed for better.
Fitted for a prosthetic leg here in 2011, three years after he was critically injured, Hamzah is back for a new leg to better support his growing body.
Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital is donating the labor. Healing Children of Conflict, a nonprofit organization which provides medical treatment to children injured in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, is hosting Hamzah and his father. The group is also organizing fundraising events to cover the $15,000 cost for the boy's leg.
“We are so thankful to them. They are so merciful, I just can’t believe it,” said Al-Daeni through a translator.
He said when the missile struck Bagdad, killing his mother and causing Hamzah’s right leg amputation, the family kept thinking their life was over.
“But now, look at him, he is so happy. He keeps smiling and I am so thankful for that,” said Al-Daeni.
He remembers the day his son lost his leg. It was April 28, 2008, and Al-Daeni had put part of his earnings on the table, just before Hamzah got home from school. The boy was excited, talking about a list of things he wanted to buy for his upcoming birthday.
“He wrote down a pair of tennis shoes, cake and soda,” the father said.
Hamzah walked out the door to buy a few things for himself and lingered a few minutes to play in the yard. It was then a U.S. missile struck, killing several civilians including the boy's grandmother.
Outside, Al-Daeni saw a neighbor carrying Hamzah, who had been struck my shrapnel above his hip, his intestines exposed.
“We were ready to have a birthday party. We were ready to celebrate,” said Imad-Al-Daeni.
Fast-forward five years. His son has done more than learn how to walk with his prosthetic leg. He can zip across a soccer field.
Hamzah said he loves playing the sport.
“I love soccer. That’s my favorite thing at school,” said Hamzah, a confessed A.C. Milan fan.
The next fundraising event is a spaghetti dinner on Friday, April 26 in Plymouth United Church of Christ, 4100 Kalamazoo Ave. SE. Tickets are $5 for children and $10 for adults, with a $30 maximum per family.