Haida Gwaii-based Syrian family needs help travelling for surgeries

Five-year-old Douaa Sirhan lost a leg in a traumatic amputation when a mortar rocket exploded on her grandmother’s balcony in Daraa, Syria.

In August, Douaa arrived in Haida Gwaii with her five brothers and sisters and parents, Hasan and Lama Sirhan. They came as refugees, sponsored by a local group of five families.

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The Sirhans are a long way from the conflict in Syria — they were resettled in Queen Charlotte City.

How they felt when they landed in an alien landscape, displaced from everything they had ever known, surrounded by old-growth forest and the sea, a strange language and the sound of birdsong, was summed up in what Douaa’s father, Hasan, shared through an interpreter. “He said: ‘I know I am in paradise,’ ” Operatio Refugee Haida Gwaii committee member Beng Favreau said.

And Douaa? “She is a really high spirited girl,” said Favreau. “She loves the park and the monkey bars. She can grab the rungs and swing herself across. Nothing fazes her.”

But the medical issues Douaa and her family face are more than what their sponsors expected. Douaa has had to travel to Vancouver twice for treatment at B.C. Children’s hospital for amputation-revision surgery on her leg, which had become infected. Her sister, Shahid, 7, suffered shrapnel wounds and will also need surgery.

Hasan, a former truck and taxi driver, needs surgery to deal with a hernia and the lingering effects of torture. (He was picked up at the Jordanian border, hung from a wall in handcuffs and released without charges after 30 days before the family reached a UN refugee camp in Jordan.)

All of the children need complex and extensive dental work.

Although the family has medical coverage through the Interim Federal Health Program, and Hope Air has provided flights for Douaa and her father, costs include transportation to and from airports, Arabic translators, additional food and incidentals.

Favreau said the group is committed to supporting the family emotionally and financially for the first year as set out by the federal government’s G5 program. They were aware of Douaa’s injuries when they were matched with the Sirhan family, but they didn’t know she would require more surgeries — something that is not uncommon with traumatic amputations. So the group has set up a fund to raise the additional money.

It’s unusual for a refugee family with complex medical needs to be settled in a remote community, said Andrea Palmer, regional manager of public affairs for Northern Health.

“It definitely poses a challenge, but it’s not a negative,” said Favreau. “They have been a wonderful addition to our community.”


To help support the Sirhan family, go to chimp.net/groups/operation-refugees-haida-gwaii or by mail to Operation Refugee Haida Gwaii, Box 448, Queen Charlotte, B.C. VOT 1S0.

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