Things are looking up! Meet the happy Palestinian teen who had eye surgery to restore his face

Published December 16th, 2014 - 08:06 GMT

The lack of medical resources in occupied Palestine did not only cost teenager Mamoon Qabha his eye but also the confidence needed to pursue his dreams.

This was true until just a week ago, when the 17-year-old’s life took a turn for the better, in a life changing trip to Dubai, where he received an artificial eye.

He was brought to Dubai by Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) and was treated at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai.

Though the surgery did not restore the teenager’s sight, it did help however restore his facial structure and provide a normal look, which Qabha said has changed the way he looks at life.

“Before the surgery, I had a negative outlook on life. I didn’t even want to go to university because of the way I looked. But now my confidence is restored and I have new hopes and dreams.”

The teenager, who is now back in Palestine told Gulf News he suffered from ophthalmia (an inflammatory eye condition) after toxic chemicals entered his eye when he was playing under a construction site in his home town of Em-Daar, near Jenin, at the age of seven.

“They mix the cement with chemicals when building houses. I was playing under it and when I looked up, and it came into my eye and burned my retina. Due to lack of medical resources, they did not treat it properly and I ended up losing it [eye].”

With the lack of advanced medical equipment and knowledge in Palestine, and travel not financially viable, many children do not receive the treatment they would be entitled to in other parts of the world.

Not only the surgery, but his trip to Dubai too did change his life. The 17-year-old has become inspired to study media and come to Dubai and work after visiting a well-known Arabic TV station in Dubai and visiting some of its landmarks.

“We went everywhere in Dubai, we visited Burj Khalifa, we went to the beach and we went skiing in Mall of the Emirates. My goal now is to study and then come to Dubai because I fell in love with the city,” said the teenager upon experiencing a life outside occupation for the first time in his life.

Qabha was one of over 72 cases that was brought to Dubai by the PCRF, a non-political, non-profit organisation, which works hard to provide sick and injured Arab children in the Middle East with specialised medical care by arranging cost-free treatment for them abroad.

Mazen Aloul, the PCRF UAE spokesperson, said around 72 cases were treated in the UAE in the spam of seven to eight years.

“We treat around five to 10 cases annually, usually children injured from Palestine but now we are also treating children from Syria. We treat children with different cases. We try to match their health problems with the health providers available.”

Steve Sosebee, CEO of the PCRF said he hopes to bring more children like Qabha to the UAE for treatment, so they can experience world-class healthcare and a world outside of occupation. “We hope that this trip will provide Qabha with an improved quality of life. There are many children with medical conditions coming from conflict areas like Syria, Iraq or Gaza who need medical attention that their families cannot afford or which is not available in their home country, and which we are obliged to help provide them.”

Qabha has been receiving his medical treatment at Moorfields Eye Hospital in Dubai Healthcare City under the care of Ocularist Paul Geelen. Dr Edoardo Zinicola, Medical Lead, Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai. Commenting on Qabha’s case he said: “It is of course a challenge to be able to see with only one eye, and not being able to pursue your dream because of that. When we learnt of Mamoon’s case, we were looking forward to taking on his case and helping him.”

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