Almost a year after her family's East Harlem apartment was leveled by an explosion, a six-year-old victim of the blast was finally released from the hospital Monday.
Holding the always-supportive hands of her father and her occupational therapist, six-year-old Duaa Al Ghaithi was finally ready to leave St. Mary's Hospital for Children after six months of intensive rehabilitation.
"She was unable to speak, unable to eat, unable to swallow, unable to roll from one side of the bed to the other and sit at the edge of the bed, she was unable to walk, she was unable to play," said St. Mary’s occupational therapist Colleen Martin.
On October 6, 2007, a gas explosion tore her family's apartment on 118th Street apart. Duaa and her three sisters sustained burns over 60 to 90 percent of their bodies. Their mother, who was also injured, later died. All spent time in a Manhattan burn unit and then Duaa, the most severely hurt, was transferred to St. Mary's.
Duaa wears a head-to-toe compression garment 23 hours a day. It usually includes gloves, but Monday she got a pass to eat her favorite M&Ms. When she gets home, Duaa says she wants to play with her sisters.
The family now lives in South Ozone Park, close to St. Mary's.
"It's a daunting task for any parent to take care of one very sick, chronically-ill child, you can just imagine multiplying that by four children," said Dr. Edwin Simpser, St. Mary's Executive VP, Chief Medical Officer, and Chief Operating Officer.
"I will never forget this hospital,” said Duaa’s father Rassas Al Ghaithi, through a translator.
Despite her injuries, her voice still soft from burned vocal cords, Duaa is thinking big.
"I'm a female spiderman," she said.
Doctors say Duaa will need about five to six more years of therapy.
"Duaa is a beautiful, energetic six-year-old, who has taught every person who has come in contact with her the true meaning of determination and bravery,” said Martin.
Now finished with her inpatient program at St. Mary's, Duaa will continue in their medical day care. She will also start first grade in the fall.
Meanwhile, the family's attorney said they have sued both the building's owner and Con Edison.
Con-Ed has denied responsibility for the explosion and has no comment regarding the lawsuit.
If you would like to help Duaa and her family, direct donations to:
The Accident Victims Relief Fund
Al Ghaithi Family
143 Willis Avenue, Suite 2
Mineola, NY 11501