Friday, February 15, 2008
Wheelchairs and Hearts
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Mothers cradle children in their arms. Fathers smile softly at the helpless bodies they hold. Other parents are bent over from the weight of their teenage kids whose legs fall limp, almost touching the ground. In the absence of basic medical equipment, these parents do this every day.
Khaled is a father of three. On this day, his young daughter, Mariam, is getting fitted for her new wheelchair. Her arms and legs are painfully thin, little more than skin and bone. She's 7 years old, but looks barely half that. She and both her siblings, a sister and brother, suffer from varying degrees of polio. None of them can walk.
Asked how he and his family cope, Khaled chokes up, fighting back tears.
"I am sick of life -- what can I say to you?" he says after a long pause.
One man, Brad Blauser, has vowed to try to make life a little easier for these families by organizing the distribution of wheelchairs, donated and paid for by his charity, Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids. He first came to Iraq in 2004 as a civilian contractor. Struck by the abject chaos surrounding him and seeing helpless children scooting along the ground, he pledged to find a way to help.
...Iraqi parents will go to any lengths to improve the quality of their children's lives. Blauser points to one of his favorite photographs, of a father carrying his son in his arms, an endless desert road behind him. He had carried his son more than 6 miles to get a wheelchair.
"In August 2006 we had a distribution in northern Iraq," Blauser remembered. "We watched him [the father] come forward, and people rushed to take the boy from his arms. And he said, 'No, I've been carrying this child all my life. I can carry him the last 100 yards to receive his wheelchair.' "
Read complete article here.