British Columbia

Refugee injured in Baghdad bomb blast sits on B.C. wait list

Farrah Ali, an injured Iraqi refugee arrived in B.C. in November of 2014 and has been waiting to see a specialist since then.

Farrah Ali, mother of 3, has already undergone 11 surgeries

Farrah Ali seen here with her son before a bomb blast left her with severe injuries to her face and arm. (Farrah Ali)

A recently arrived refugee in B.C. says she's been on a wait list to see a medical specialist since November, living with chronic pain due to injuries from a bomb blast in Iraq.

Farrah Ali had already had 11 surgeries prior to arriving in Canada and believes she may need more to heal her arm and face.

"On a daily basis, I'm in severe pain, I feel my bones, all of it. Aches and pains. My neck and shoulders, I still have one shred [of shrapnel] in my jaw," she said.

"[Currently] my husband has to do everything — dress me, undress me, take care of the kids — he has to be with me 24/7 and I feel like he cannot do anything else."

In addition to waiting for a specialist, she also needs a referral to see a physiotherapist that could help in her recovery but says despite multiple visits to a doctor, nothing has happened. 
"I know I'm not going to get better 100 per cent, but my wish is just to get better so I can do things on my own," said Ali.

'I felt my life turned upside down'

In April of 2014, Farrah Ali took her young son out for ice cream at a local shop in their hometown of Baghdad, Iraq. 

As the family sat and ate, a car bomb exploded outside the store, leaving Ali with severe injuries to her face and arm.

Farrah Ali required 11 surgeries for her face and arm after she was injured by a bomb blast in Baghdad in 2014. (Ahmed Altahan)

"At that moment, I felt my life turned upside down — I felt [like] I am dying," Ali told a translator. 

 "I was bleeding from everywhere — my son when I held him, he was all covered in blood from me. My hand kept going down and I kept pulling it up. The only strength I had was thinking of my kids."

Ali had no control over one arm because that shoulder was completely torn apart by the impact of the bomb blast.

Ali required multiple surgeries to insert metal plates into her jaw, and endured skin and bone grafts for the injuries to her arm.

For nearly two years, she's been in chronic pain, unable to use the injured arm. 

The family arrived in B.C. in November of 2014 as government-assisted refugees.

With Ali only having the use of one arm, Ali's husband Ahmed has, for nearly two years, taken on most of the daily tasks of parenting. (CBC News)

Like many refugees, their first point of contact with the health care system was the Bridge medical clinic — a specialized health care centre in East Vancouver that helps refugees until they can find a family doctor in their new community.

"The family doctor said he will refer me to the specialist, but the specialist is so busy, up til now, no one called," said Ali.

"I'm supposed to start physiotherapy right away [too] but nothing happened," she told a translator.

'They're going to be treated like any other Canadian'

Doctor Mei Ling Wiedmeyer at the Bridge medical clinic said while she cannot comment specifically on Ali's case, many refugees come into the clinic not knowing how the process works, and some expect they're going to get treatment right away.

"They're not used to the medical system here and some of them don't understand that once they arrive, they're going to be treated like any other Canadian," said Wiedmeyer.  

Dr. Mei-Ling Wiedmeyer says refugees are treated like any other Canadian when they enter the medical system. (CBC News )

"Everybody who comes here, especially in this group, is a permanent resident. So they actually go into the system the same way any B.C. resident would — there's not special treatment one way or the other."

Dr. Wiedmeyer  said the Bridge Medical Clinic usually sees about 800 patients in an entire year and they've already treated 800 in the last six weeks alone.

After CBC News contacted Vancouver Coastal Health about this story, Farrah said she received a phone call stating that a health care provider would be visiting the family on Friday. 

To listen to the the full interview, click the link labelled: Refugee injured in Baghdad bomb blast sits on B.C. wait list.


Bal Brach


Bal Brach is an award-winning reporter at CBC News Vancouver. She has worked in television, radio and online news across Canada for more than 15 years. Bal's storytelling skills have earned her two Jack Webster Awards. She is also the recipient of regional and national Radio Television Digital News Association awards. Bal can be reached at or on social media @BalBrach