Bear hugs and welcoming smiles greeted Salee Allawe when she returned to Shriners Hospital for Children on Wednesday, two years after traveling to Greenville from Iraq to be fitted with prosthetic legs.
The Iraqi girl lost both legs in a missile strike, according to No More Victims, the group that arranged her trip. She captivated Greenville in 2007 with her courage and determination as she underwent surgery, then was fitted for the legs that let her walk and play again.
She was scheduled to return 12 to 18 months later for new legs to accommodate her growth, but No More Victims instead arranged for her treatment near its Los Angeles headquarters.
But because Salee and her father, Hussein, preferred the care they received in Greenville and felt at home here, local volunteers raised money to pay for their return visit, said Ann Miller, the group's national community coordinator.
“The care (in Los Angeles) was good, but they're just so much more comfortable with the team in Greenville,” Miller said. “They are so excited to be coming back.”
They arrived Tuesday, had a joyous reunion with locals who've befriended them and settled in at Ronald McDonald House, which is putting them up. On Wednesday, they were already at Shriners, where Salee's care is provided for free.
Now 12, Salee's not so little anymore. For the past six months, her first prosthetic legs have become quite painful as she has grown. That's caused her to sit out activities she'd been participating in, interpreter George Maalouf said.
A new pair of legs is expected to remedy that.
“She's gotten a lot longer life out of those prostheses than we typically get,” orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Westberry said as he examined Salee's legs. “But she's outgrown them.”
Salee also was seen by prosthetist Ed Skewes, who amused the giggling girl with his Donald Duck imitations while forming fiber glass molds for her new legs. They should be ready in about two weeks.
“It's a real treat to be able to treat children from here and all over the world,” Skewes said. “I'm very happy to see them again.”
Decked out in a frilly black dress and sparkly, colorful bracelets for the occasion, Salee was clearly happy to be back with people she knows, too.
“They are so glad they ended up coming back here,” her father told Westberry through Maalouf. “They felt very strange in L.A. And they're very grateful for your help and to the hospital.”