Walking, One Hand at a Time

When I was nine months old, I had a fever and my family took me to a doctor. The doctor gave me a shot and the next morning my legs would not support me. I had polio. My family did not have money for follow-up treatment.

When I was five years old, my father left my mother for another woman. Then we did not have money even for food. We were Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. My younger brother tried to earn money by doing anything he could, like going to people’s houses, collecting their trash and selling it. One day my younger brother got sick, so my mother had no option but to take me in her arms and sit beside the street begging for money so she could take my brother to the doctor. I do not remember anything from that time because I was very young. But my mother told me people were not friendly; after all, they saw women like her, begging with a baby in arms, every day. Finally, after quite a long time, a kind-hearted man got out of his car and gave her a fair amount of money so she could take my brother to a doctor. Until now, every time my mother prays, she remembers that man and prays for him as well.

My father returned home, then, and stayed with us for one year. I was seven years old when he died of a heart attack. Two months later, my mother took me to a German doctor who was working briefly at a hospital, helping Afghan refugees for free. He operated on my knee, but he made a mistake and operated on the wrong one, and soon after that, returned home. My life became even harder. Whenever my family went to a party or wedding, they told me I could not go because people would laugh, point and mock me. I stayed alone at home and talked with the walls. Sometimes I cried. I did not go outside. Because I could not walk on my feet, I walked with my hands.

One day my family went to party and I was alone at home. I fell down. My foot and my hand were hurt. My hand started bleeding. I was crying and calling my mom, but nobody was there to hear. I felt so lonely. I wished that I was never born since I could not walk, run and enjoy life like other kids my age. I asked myself why I came to be in this world.

When I was nine years old, I lost my grandmother. When my family and I were at my grandmother’s house for her funeral, suddenly my aunt pointed at me and said, “Why didn’t she die instead? She cannot walk and is of no use. Why hasn’t she died instead?” It was like the whole world collapsed on me. Even though I was young, I could understand. It became a big burden on my heart. Many nights after that, I was thinking about why my aunt, my own aunt, had said those harsh words to me and about me.

In the tenth spring of my life, it was my aunt’s wedding. As usual my family told me, “You stay alone at home.” I cried and asked them to take me with them, but they said, “No, you have to stay at home.” They went to the wedding. I cried for hours after they left, until at last I went to sleep. When they came home and talked about the wedding, I was crying in my heart.

Every Eid, all my siblings got new clothes and other gifts, but my family did not buy for me because they told me, “Since you do not go out, you do not need new clothes and other things.” One day I didn’t tell my mom and I went outside. The children started laughing at me and teasing me and hurt me, and my head became bloody. I walked with my hands back home, and then my mom was very angry at me.

When I was twelve years old, we came back to Kabul from Pakistan. I still stayed home, but I started to read books and magazines. I was thirteen years old when I went to the Red Cross. They gave me crutches. Then I attended school for the first time, and began with the fourth grade. I went to the Red Cross again and they put my both legs, from toe up, in a cast. I was in the cast for six months. It was difficult, but I continued to go to school and became first in my class. I had another operation and then I could walk with crutches. And now some Americans have helped me and I have learned English and I may have three more surgeries in the coming three years so that I can walk better and better.

This is my life story. But this is not the end. Wait for the end!

By Sana


9 responses to “Walking, One Hand at a Time

  1. simple yet powerful story. Always, wait for the end. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. You have strong arms and a strong heart! Thank you for telling your story.

  3. Amazing story, Sana. We could all learn to walk better from you.

  4. Dear Sana,
    You are walking with your words. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story of strength and courage.

  5. This piece pushes us all to keep going. Thank you for your writing.

  6. Dear Sana,

    Your story is inspiring and powerful–keep facing forward, I know your life will keep changing and becoming beautiful. Keep writing!

  7. Just love your writing. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your words.

    They touch deeply

  8. Amazing what you have achieved by now. I got inspired to help you publish your stories eventually. You are a strong and wonderful woman. Keep writing and making your dreams come true. I will get in touch with Masha to help with the project.

  9. You are an inspiration! Your words are powerful and strong and will only get stronger the more you use them. I look forward to reading more of your work in the months and years ahead!

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