Boy who lost leg in Po­tiskum school blast back on his feet

Weekly Trust - - News - Judd-Leonard Okafor

Six­teen years since he was born, Musa is learn­ing to walk again-on ar­ti­fi­cial limbs fit­ted on him af­ter a bomb at­tack at his school cost him his legs. He is one of 180 peo­ple since Au­gust last year fit­ted with ar­ti­fi­cial limbs un­der a free pros­the­sis pro­gramme by the International Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross.

His fam­ily learned of the free pros­the­sis for vic­tims of vi­o­lence, three days af­ter a blast dam­aged his leg.

Three months later, he got a new limb at the Na­tional Orthopaedic Hospi­tal in Dala, Kano.

He was the youngest on the pro­gramme back then, and orthopaedic staff taught him to use his new limb.

“He found it very easy to cope,” his father Musa, whom the teenager is named af­ter, says.

“Af­ter we were dis­charged, he used a stick for a while but soon dropped it and be­gan to walk around un­aided.”

He still thinks about his dream of play­ing foot­ball.

Black assem­bly

That dream dimmed on a school morn­ing in Novem­ber 2014 when a boy walked into Gov­ern­ment Sci­ence Sec­ondary School, Po­tiskum, Yobe State, with a bag.

For se­cu­rity rea­sons, bags were banned.

“We kept ask­ing him why he was car­ry­ing a bag,” Musa re­calls. “Then we heard a beep­ing sound, but we thought it was his phone.”

It was a bomb in­side, and the blast ripped through the assem­bly hall where stu­dents had queued for morn­ing assem­bly.

The bomber had come dressed as a stu­dent. His at­tack left 47 peo­ple dead, in­clud­ing the bomber. Another 79 were wounded.

Musa’s father, Musa, who lived in the staff quar­ters near the school, heard the bomb go off.

“I ran to the school and saw dead bod­ies ev­ery­where and ev­ery­one run­ning around con­fused. I started look­ing for my son,” he says, re­call­ing the Novem­ber 2014 at­tack.

He even­tu­ally found Musa in the emer­gency ward of Po­tiskum Gen­eral Hospi­tal. His son’s left leg had been blown off in the blast.

Back to hope

The project that helped Musa get a leg back only work with am­putees ref­er­eed from ICRC health field of­fices in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.

“This way, we are able to con­trol what would other­wise be a huge de­mand for fit­tings,” says Jacques For­get, an or­tho­pros­thetist who over­sees the project in Dala-Kano.

For­get cur­rently works with six Na­tional Ortho­pe­dic Hospi­tal staff and one ICRC staff, but he sees a need to im­prove their skills.

“Im­prov­ing the tech­ni­cal know-how of the staff for me in­volves not just train­ing them on how to fab­ri­cate and fit the am­putees, but also help­ing them to see the pa­tients as ‘ben­e­fi­cia­ries,’ a mind­set that per­son­al­izes their ap­proach to the vic­tims,” For­get said.

With a pros­thetic limb, Musa had re-mas­tered walk­ing and can move about un­aided. He eas­ily rides a three-wheeled bike his father bought him.

“He is young and he still feels the trauma some­times. He gets an­gry some­times but other times he is friendly with ev­ery­one,” Musa’s father says.

Musa, now 16, has dreams of con­tin­u­ing his stud­ies at ei­ther the Univer­sity of Maiduguri or the Fed­eral Univer­sity of Gusau.

Foot­ball is still a dream, though dif­fi­cult now. But he stays con­nected to the sport by fer­vently sup­port­ing Barcelona foot­ball team.

“My favourite foot­ballers are Messi and Ney­mar,” he says.

Ade­wole Ajao, ICRC

Musa’s father is hope­ful about his son’s fu­ture, es­pe­cially since he can now walk with his new limb. PHOTO:

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