From Syria to Jordan, then Germany – Amputee Becomes Innovator in Field of Artificial Limbs

Former medical worker Asem now works in the 3D printing of prosthetic limbs in order to help improve people's lives in war-torn countries

Asem Hasna is a young Syrian man from the city of Qatana who was studying mathematics at the University of Damascus. His story in terms of the Syrian revolution begins as a volunteer with a medical group in the first aid division for wounded protesters and prisoners subjected to torture.

At the start of 2013, he had completed one year at university working as a nurse. At this time regime forces arrested his father in a raid on his home which had aimed to arrest him. They found medical and first aid supplies in the house, and then they circulated his name at all the checkpoints. Asem became a wanted man at all the security branches under the charge of treating wounded, and so he was forced to move to the city of Khan al-Sheikh. He stopped his university studies and joined the Shaheed Ziad al-Buqaie hospital.

During his field work, the ambulance that he was in was hit by a shell. Asem was immediately transferred to Jordan for treatment but he lost his leg as a result. During his stay in Amman, he encountered a project by the US State Department aiming to provide 150 artificial limbs to Syrian war wounded in Jordan. The project included a nine-month training session for 12 Syrians to become artificial limb technicians. Asem was nominated as a patient and a trainee, and completed the course successfully.

His work began in dealing with 10 amputees to provide them new limbs. During his work he became familiar with a project to use 3D printers to manufacture artificial limbs — the idea of the Refugee Open Ware organization, which works to use modern technology to create solutions for people in areas affected by conflict and war.

During his work with the group, Asem was able to manufacture the first prostheses in record time for a Syrian woman in the Zaatari camp, in addition to some spare parts for his artificial limb.

He also worked with his friend in the group to help Ahmed, who lost his eyesight to a sniper’s bullet. This was achieved through a device worn on his hand which sends ultrasound waves to determine his distance from solid bodies and inform him through vibrations when to stop so as to avoid colliding with objects.

Asem has since headed to Germany with the aim of studying and developing skills in the field and is considering returning to Jordan to continue working with wounded.

Upon his arrival, he participated in the TEDx Berlin program for innovators, with the title of his speech he gave to innovators around the world, “Rebuilding our lives, rebuilding our countries”.

Asem’s ambition is to return to Syria and work at an advanced center for artificial limbs and to pass his knowledge onto others in the profession, as well as manufacture inexpensive robotic limbs accessible to everyone.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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