4-year-old boy wounded in war-torn Gaza hopes to recover from scars at Staten Island hospital

Jim Dolan Image
Friday, February 23, 2024
War-wounded child recovering at Staten Island hospital
Jim Dolan has the story.

STATEN ISLAND, New York (WABC) -- A war-wounded little boy from Gaza, now in a hospital on Staten Island, is not only recovering from physical injuries, but emotional scars that has wounded his loving heart.

Omar Abukwaik smiles right through the shrapnel wounds that still scar his bright young face.

His aunt is all that's left of his family now. Abukwaik grew up in Gaza, and at just 4 years old, the little boy has learned all there is to know about loss, in one horrifying instant.

"Omar's house was destroyed from a missile and his whole family was buried under the rubble," said Elisa Montati of the Global Medical Relief Fund.

Abukwaik lost most of an arm and suffered severe burns when an Israeli missile struck and destroyed his family home in Gaza. He lost his parents, grandparents and a sister that day. Somehow, Abukwaik survived.

"Omar had a blast injury toward the left side of his face during an explosion in Gaza and he was known to have a perforated hole in his eardrum," said Dr. Christopher Lisi of Richmond University Medical Center.

A group called the Global Medical Relief Fund managed to get Abukwaik and his aunt first to Egypt, then to the U.S. for treatment.

Now at the Richmond University Medical Center, Abukwaik's hearing is improving. He was fitted for a prosthetic arm, but there is still so much left to heal.

"He does still struggle with some trauma, associated triggers, sleep issues, startled responses, outbursts at times, panic attacks that have actually been improved," Dr. Nida Khan said. "He really doesn't talk about his family. The avoidance part is still there."

Abukwaik has plenty to avoid. Still, doctors and the Global Medical Relief Fund are giving him a chance to have a future.

"Having the opportunity to take care of this young little boy is something that is very special for all of us," said Daniel Messina of Richmond University Medical Center.

Abukwaik will go back to Gaza and the war there, when his physical and emotional therapy are finished.


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