Iraqi teen gets help in the Bay Area

October 27, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
In addition to claiming thousands of lives, the violence in Iraq has left behind more amputees than government facilities can help. That's why a teenage boy flew all the way to the Bay Area to get treatment, free of charge. Monday was the day he tried on his prosthetic leg on for the first time.

At first 14-year-old Hamoudi Aletabbi felt awkward.

"This is basically him just beginning to learn how to walk," said Tony LaFrance, from Laurence Orthopedics.

It's been two years since Hamoudi walked without the aid of crutches, but thanks to the Palestine Children's Relief Fund and Laurence Orthopedics in Oakland, he's walking on his own just one hour after trying on his new prosthetic leg.

"I feel happy and lucky to get this chance," said Hamoudi.

Hamoudi was standing in front of a Baghdad shop, where he worked, when a suicide bomb exploded.

"When I opened my eyes and I saw I was covered with blood, there was a car bumper wrapped around my leg," said Hamoudi.

Twenty-five people were killed including his father and six friends. Oddly, Hamoudi laughs because he remembers asking if anything was wrong. He looked up at his bloodied boss who was shouting four-letter Arabic words at him for asking the question.

So every time he remembers how the guy was yelling at him, he laughs.

"It's too high. Okay. That was my last adjustment," said Hamoudi.

Iraq's Ministry of Interior says a quarter of all bomb injuries, involves the loss of a limb. The Baghdad Artificial Limb Center can produce 1,200 prosthetics a year, but it's only half the number needed.

Hamoudi says if you're lucky to receive a prosthetic in Iraq, it's not customized though and the knee doesn't bend like his.

"We'll change the rotation a little bit too on the foot," said LaFrance.

He's already a Raider fan after being drawn to the full contact of American football. Still Hamoudi is anxious to get back home and what does a 14-year-old boy want to do most.

"To go back to school," said Hamoudi.


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