When he was just 3 months old, Nidal suffered third degree burns on his face and left hand when he was badly burned in a fire. The burn on Nidal's hand was so severe, it resulted in the loss of his fingers.
Nidal never had access to good medical care. Recently, however, he was given the chance of a lifetime.
Thanks to the Palestine Relief Fund, Nidal, now 10 years old, left his small village in Palestine and arrived at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea in Arizona to have his face, smile and hand reconstructed by doctors. He was very excited!
During his stay, the Phoenix community opened its heart to Nidal. Here, Nidal’s caretaker (and friend) Lena shares more about the young boy’s life-changing surgery and the Starlight Fun Center that brought him relief and smiles during his painful recovery.
The day before Nidal’s surgery, Scottsdale Healthcare Shea staff gave him a tour of the hospital and its operating room. We entered a room that was filled with games and toys — and that’s where Nidal was first introduced to the hospital’s Starlight Fun Center. Nidal’s eyes lit up immediately, and he was excited to spend some time in the room. Surrounded by so many toys and a Fun Center — it was a luxury Nidal had never experienced before.
The pain and anxiety following his first surgery were quite extreme, and Nidal started to become depressed. Nidal missed his home and family, especially his mom. Finally, we took him to the play room for a change of environment and to help his mood.
Thanks to the Fun Center, we finally got to see saw Nidal smile for the first time after his surgery, and this brought our hearts so much joy. He was so happy and comfortable in the play room, that once he woke up in the middle of the night and wanted my friend, cousin and me to take him back to the Fun Center! There we were, playing on the Wii together, racing cars—his favorite videogame — until the wee hours of the morning! He eventually fell asleep in our arms while he was playing videogames!
Nidal underwent four surgeries during his hospital stay, and I cannot tell you how thankful we were to have the Fun Center there with us. It made the experience so much more enjoyable and helped Nidal forget about the troubles of his pain and the hassle of taking his "yucky" medicine. The Fun Center also created an exciting and delightful experience for my five nieces who absolutely loved visiting Nidal. It was great to see the girls and Nidal play together. I took hundreds of pictures of them bonding and laughing while they shared the Fun Center.
It felt so great to photograph something I had always dreamed about — seeing my nieces reach out to a boy who was in need of a friend. Even though the girls only speak English and Nidal speaks mostly Arabic, the Fun Center helped them speak the same language. All kids understand happiness regardless of the words they use.
Nidal is back home in Palestine and has returned to school. He looks great and is in good spirits. The four surgeries Nidal underwent at Scottsdale HealthCare Shea were beyond successful. We really have to thank the hospital for its world-class patient care and for its team of outstanding surgeons and doctors: Dr. Leighton, Dr. Mazaheri, Dr. Smith, Dr. Greenberg, and Dr Wicklund.
Of course, we also have to thank Starlight for the Fun Center that brought us so many smiles!
- Starlight friend Lena
Photos by Phoenix photographer Adam Nollmeyer.