British Columbia

B.C. kindergarten student still recovering from war wounds

After a rocket attack destroyed her Syrian home, this four-year-old war amputee's recovery includes climbing the monkey bars in a remote B.C. village.

But 4-year-old who lost leg in Syrian rocket attack now climbing monkey bars in B.C. village

Douaa Sirhan of Haida Gwaii recovers from surgery at B.C. Children's hospital with the help of her father, Hassan Sirhan. (Facebook/Operation Refugees Haida Gwaii)

One of B.C.'s young Syrian refugees is a four-year-old war amputee who loves to climb the monkey bars but still needs medical care for her battle scars.

Douaa Sirhan was a toddler when a rocket attack destroyed her home in Daraa, Syria in 2013.

Toddler lost leg in rocket attack

Cellphone video taken soon after shows medical volunteers trying to help Douaa as she flails and screams on a hospital gurney with a mangled leg and bloodied diaper.

Cellphone video from 2013 shows Douaa Sirhan suffering from serious injuries after a rocket attack on her home in Daraa, Syria. (Facebook/Operation Refugees Haida Gwaii)

Her leg had to be amputated below the knee.

Now, three years later, Douaa and her family live a more peaceful life in the village of Queen Charlotte on Haida Gwaii, B.C., where Douaa attends school on crutches and will celebrate her fifth birthday next month.

'You cannot imagine how high she can climb'

"Douaa is a very happy child," said Beng Favreau who helped sponsor the Sirhan family. "She's always smiling. She loves to go to the park and play on the monkey bars. You cannot imagine how high she can climb with that one leg of hers. Nothing fazes her. Nothing."

Douaa Sirhan, 4, [left] plays with her brother at home on Haida Gwaii while recovering from surgery on her amputated leg. (Facebook/Beng Favreau)

Except, that is, her war wounds that haven't yet healed.

This month, Douaa had to be flown to B.C. Children's Hospital for surgery after her stump got infected.

Her father, Hassan Sirhan, travelled with her.

Favreau said Douaa spent three nights in hospital before flying home to Haida Gwaii.

Haida Gwaii rallies to raise funds 

"She was looking tired, but pretty soon she was up and about and heading back to play in the park," said Favreau.  "Today, she's back at school." 

But the little girl will have to return to Vancouver for post-operative follow up, rehabilitation and specialist care.

Eventually, she'll need to be fitted for a prosthetic leg. 

Meanwhile, her eight-year-old sister Shahid also needs more specialized medical care. 

The Sirhan family arriving at their new home on Haida Gwaii. (Operation Refugees Haida Gwaii/Facebook)

Shahid's knee was badly injured in the same rocket attack.

Although she didn't lose a leg, Shahid's bone isn't growing properly and she'll need corrective surgery.

Young war amputee drawn to Terry Fox poster

People on Haida Gwaii hope to raise $30,000 for the family's medical and travel expenses. The trip to B.C. Children's hospital is 3,400 kilometres round trip by road and ferry. 

Their new community has welcomed the Sirhans with open arms, said Favreau.

And the Sirhan children are opening local people's eyes to the horrors of war, he said.

During a recent Terry Fox run at their local school gym, Favreau said one of the Sirhan children pointed at a poster of Terry Fox and his missing limb and asked, "because of Syria?"

"She only knew legs are cut off if you're in Syria and bombs land on your house," said Favreau.


Betsy Trumpener

Reporter-Editor, CBC News

Betsy Trumpener has won numerous journalism awards, including a national network award for radio documentary and the Adrienne Clarkson Diversity Award. Based in Prince George, B.C., Betsy has reported on everything from hip hop in Tanzania to B.C.'s energy industry and the Paralympics.