Published: 2023-02-23 12:28
Last Updated: 2024-03-01 18:06
Syrians have been moved by the fate of a brave nine-year-old girl called Sham that has captured the tragedy, hope and heartbreak of the earthquake that stuck her country.
Trapped under the rubble for 40 hours, she was rescued alive but now faces the risk of having both her legs amputated because of tissue damage from the crush injuries, say her doctors.
Sham was celebrated for her courage after humming a tune along with her rescuers, who worked for six hours to free her from the concrete -- scenes captured in footage that has gone viral online.
Sham, like many survivors of the 7.8-magnitude quake that killed over 44,000 people across Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6, is now suffering from what doctors call crush syndrome.
It occurs in limbs that were starved of blood circulation for too long and starts with a severe pain in the affected extremity, which can still look healthy in the early stages.
In the condition known by the medical term rhabdomyolysis, muscle fiber dies and is released into the bloodstream, sometimes causing kidney failure.
Patients at first seem to be in good condition before they start to deteriorate.
"This is what we call 'the smile of death'," said orthopaedic surgeon Tarek Mustafa, who explained that it can cause cardiac and other potentially fatal complications.
- Amputation risk -
"Sham is one of several patients suffering from the syndrome who have been admitted to the region's hospitals," Dr Mustafa said.
In Idlib, at least 100 such cases were reported.
Many of these casualties are traumatised children, some already reeling from losing one or both parents in the tragedy.
Sham's mother and sister were killed when the family's building collapsed in the town of Armanaz, in the northwestern province of Idlib, while her father and two brothers also survived.
Sham's possible leg amputations have been postponed for now, but she is not yet safe, said Dr Mustafa, who works in one of the hospitals run by the Syrian American Medical Society in the northwest.