If you are a child being treated at ALYN . . . . . even running a marathon with no arms or legs is possible.
Abud is one of the most engaging five years olds I have ever met. Especially considering that he speaks Arabic and no English and I speak English and no Arabic. He can, however, speak volumes with his eyes and his smile.
He was a perfectly healthy little boy…actually his family considered him their Little Prince. And one day, out of nowhere, he contracted a rare bacterial infection that resulted in him losing both his hands and his legs. This is the kind of loss that could permanently derail any child and family.
In Abud’s case, the loss of his limbs never impacted his zest for life or his remarkable spirit. He spent over a year at ALYN Hospital going through incredibly complex and often painful rehabilitation. He dreamt of having hands again and of having legs. He dreamt of having feet and sneakers. He desperately wanted sneakers.
The journey has been a long one. Along the way, Abud played basketball with a little girl at ALYN. She played while attached to a respirator and Abud played with his stumped arms and on his cut off body. The smile on his face during the “pick up game” wider than the distance between him and his playmate.
One of Abud’s dreams was to run a marathon. While at ALYN, he met our new Director of Special Projects, Chaim Wizman. Chaim happens to be a runner and does marathons the way you and I do a flight of steps. A mutual admiration society developed and a crazy idea was hatched – Chaim would run the Tiberius Marathon pushing Abud in a stroller.
The Biomechanical Engineering Department at ALYN set about adapting a special stroller for the event and Chaim and Abud began training under the watchful eyes of Abud’s parents and many of ALYN;’s staff. After months of training, the day of the marathon dawned.
It is Friday, January 8th in Tiberius, Israel. It was pouring torrential rain and was a near freezing 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The skies were black. An hour before the start of the 42.2 km marathon, the roads turned to rivers. The 2400 runners and 1,000’s of watchers were standing in ankle deep water.
Chaim assumed that the long months of training to make Abud’s Marathon Wish come true were going to be washed away. Abud was bundled up inside the running stroller that ALYN’s technical department had modified specially for the event. Abud’s parents told Chaim, “If you are crazy enough to run in a flood, we aren’t going to stop our son from participating in an event he has long dreamed of.”
There was no way to avoid the lake sized puddles but they didn’t faze Abud. He laughed with delight. Chaim was worried that Abud would get so wet he would become dangerously cold but he refused to be covered with the special cover on the stroller. He did not intend to miss a single sight, sound or raindrop. Chaim’s sneakers were so drenched he considered running barefoot; his long sleeves had been discarded for a tank top. At the halfway mark -when Chaim thought perhaps they needed to stop – he looked at Abuds’ face and the wide smile was all the encouragement he needed to keep going. It was tough going in the relentless rain but the cheers from fellow ALYN staffers and marathon watchers on the sidelines and Abud’s singing made all the difference.
Just as the rehab Abud received for over a year at ALYN made all the difference. ALYN will never be able to replace Abud’s lost arms and legs. But we’ve given him the tools and encouragement to live as full a life as possible. ALYN Hospital is driven by the stubborn and courageous refusal to accept the conventional wisdom that says “it can’t be done”.
Every child rehabilitating in ALYN has his or her own personal finish line.
Often when running a marathon, it seems that the distance is cruelly overwhelming and impossibly far. Each small step forward brings the runner closer to the fulfillment of a dream. This is exactly what rehab at ALYN is like. Every little step makes a difference.
Rehab is a long and often painful and tortuous road. When the struggle is fought alone it feels impossible. When a child is supported by a team that shares his or her dreams, somehow the impossible becomes a reality.
In Tiberius, in a Noah-sized torrential rain, ALYN’s mighty team crossed the finish line in victory. They were engulfed
in a flood of hugs and tears from Abud’s extended family and the crowd of well-wishers. The flood of tears matched
the falling rain. Only little Abud didn’t tear up. He was too busy smiling. His Marathon Wish came true.
Every ALYN story is a reminder to me of how grateful I am for what I have and how incredibly proud I am to be a part of the life changing work done at ALYN. I think both Chaim and Abud are unsung heroes. There praises should be sung…by everyone. Far and wide. Yasher Koach!
American Friends of AYN Hospital