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Stateless & Speechless, A Palestinian Regains Speech

Mohammad Awajah is a forty-three year old Palestinian father from the West Bank city of Jericho whose ability to speak was just restored.

During his shift as an employee for the Palestinian Telecommunication Company on January 13, 2011 he opened a phone wire box where he says he inhaled a gas that caused him to lose his ability to speak. His family, including his wife and five children, thought this was just a temporary bug; but days later he was still unable to speak and their medical trials had officially begun.

Om Moussa, Muhammad’s wife said, “We visited with a professor surgeon in the West Bank who was unable to help. We tried many medications that did nothing to bring his voice back.” She continues, “The professor said he cannot help because a long time has passed since the incident.” They still visited a number of local clinics that would prove fruitless.

They even visited with a doctor in the celebrated Israeli hospital Hadassah. Nobody was able to reunite Muhammad with his voice. At that point Muhammad started to lose hope and started seeing psychologists due to his depression. He felt disconnected from his family because he could not talk to anyone and didn’t care about anything around him. His youngest son Aboud wouldn’t talk to him and kept away from him due to this sudden change.

A West Bank doctor advised them to create a dramatic scene that would be shock Muhammad enough to bring his voice back. Om Moussa played along and put on a good show where she pretended that she only had a few days to live due to some serious illness. Muhammad offered to pay all his money to save her, but still had no voice.

Months later, Om Moussa watched a talk show where a Gaza-based Palestinian Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist was talking about a case where he was able to restore an elderly woman’s ability to speak who had lost that ability more than 15 years ago. Dr. Ahmad Jadaba’s success story was well publicized in the Palestinian media.

Desperate for help, Om Moussa called the doctor and consulted with him on her husband’s case. Due to an outdated phone directory she had to make 18 wrong calls before she could reach him. Later they met via video conference even though they were only a short drive apart. Dr. Jadaba promised Muhammad and his wife that he would do his best to restore his speaking ability.

Now, the political reality and uniqueness of the situation hits: Dr. Jadaba lives in besieged Gaza, and the Awajahs live in the West Bank. Traditionally the better doctors and facilities are in the West Bank and Israel. So most ill Gazans travel there, not the other way around. No one has ever come Gaza for health care.

Confused by the unusual request, the Israeli authorities denied them a permit to go into Gaza for medical attention. They stressed that if physicians in Israel couldn’t fix it, no one else can. Thus Israel denied all of their seven attempts to get a permit to enter Gaza. Om Moussa wouldn’t quit, working with the local health authorities in both Gaza and Ramallah. In the end, they traveled to Jordan and from Jordan they flew to Egypt and from Egypt, and special coordination that required miracles, they arrived in Gaza.

At the Rafah border, Dr. Jadaba brought his family and received Muhammad and his wife, offering to host them at his house. Arriving in Gaza on July 5th, Dr. Jadaba started his treatment on Mr. Awajah. At first it started with the assessment and the following day, the help of the hospital’s only Endoscope. Four days later, Awajah got most of his voice back to where he can make out most of the letters. Dr. Jadaba put aside a conference he was supposed to attend in Turkey to attend to Mohammed and his family.

Three days later, here’s Muhammad in a video of him saying his first words since the accident–a chapter from the Koran.

Perhaps the most touching moment came when Mohammed called his son Abboud to tell him that he now has his voice back and they can play together. The seven year old teared up and said, “I Love you Dad!”

Dr. Jadaba has called on Palestinian businesses to provide medical equipment to the main Gaza hospitals and he has gladly pledged to accept any case where his skills are needed. “The only Endoscopy are available in private clinics and not in the public hospitals where they are needed the most.” He added, “the device I used on Mohammad has been decommissioned a long time ago.”

This is a celebration of a strong Palestinian women and a Palestinian professional who despite all odds never stopped exploring. Another hero is the business where Mohammed used to work. They covered all of his medical costs and showed a good business practice. I would add the role of the media in publicizing this story to the public and telling the world about the unbreakable will of the people of Palestine.


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