* Hamzah was horrifically injured at home in Baghdad just days before his fifth birthday
* Now he has been fitted with a new leg at a rehabilitation centre in Michigan
Three days before his fifth birthday, Hamzah al-Daeni was horrifically injured when a U.S. missile tore through his home in Baghdad as he played in the back garden. He lost one of his legs and part of his stomach, and his grieving father believed his son would never walk again.
But now, three years later, the smiling little boy has proved his father wrong and is standing tall once again after being given a new leg in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Hamzah and his father, Imad, have spent six weeks at the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital where his progress has astonished doctors – and changed Mr al-Daeni’s opinion of America.
Most patients take six months to walk unaided with a prosthesis, but just two weeks after he had his new leg fitted, Hamzah can walk happily up the stairs without needing crutches.
It took three therapy sessions a week to help him walk again, but therapist Julie Honeycutt said she was surprised and impressed by how hard the little boy worked, watched proudly by his father.
At one of his final sessions, he asked ‘how am I doing, good or perfect?’. Mrs Honeycutt replied: ‘Perfect.’
She told the Grand Rapids Press: ‘He is such a hard worker, I can’t believe how he feels so motivated to try to please everybody around him as well as himself.’
Mr al-Daeni told his son in Arabic: ‘Keep up. Keep up. You are making Daddy and your family very proud. I am your father. I love you. With the love between you and me, we will do it right.’
Hamzah will continue practising with his leg at home in Baghdad. He should eventually be able to run on it.
He arrived at the hospital in May, after Healing Children of Conflict, a non-profit organisation, raised $27,000 to pay for him to fly over from Iraq.
After the missile attack he was treated by doctors in Iraq and India, but they were forced to amputate his leg above the hip because the shrapnel wounds were so severe.
Hamzah also lost part of his stomach, and still has deep scars just above his waist.
Before they came to Michigan, his father said he was deeply resentful towards the U.S., and claimed soldiers ignored his desperate pleas to give his son medical help.
But he said the doctors at the hospital have changed his mind. He said: ‘They made me see the truth, the real you.’
His translator, Basel Shatara, said: ‘He never thought of coming here to the States and he never expected such good treatment from the people here. He considers America his second home now.’
Mr al-Daeni said: ‘All my pain and stress are going out of my shoulders little by little.’
He and his son stayed at the hospital’s Ronald McDonald House. Hamzah learned a little English at the Stepping Stones Montessori School, and can sing along to the Rolling Stones.
Hamzah will need to come back every 18-30 months for the leg to be refitted as he gets older. At a farewell party at Ronald McDonald House, he said: ‘I will miss the good people in America that helped me, especially the good doctor.’
To see a slide show about Hamza’s first visit, click here.