Make dua for this family. I remember visiting the little girls when they were in the hospital. They were in really really bad condition. Glad to know, it's getting better...I guess.
peace and love..
A Fatal Explosion Leaves a Motherless Family to Deal With a Multitude of Scars
By SHARON OTTERMAN
Published: August 26, 2008
It should have been a night without tears for the Alghaithi family. But as usual these days, they did not get much sleep.
First, curly-haired Lina, 3, woke up screaming after a nightmare that someone was following her. Then her older sister, Twka, 5, started crying and scratching at her burn scars. Their father, Rassas Alghaithi, 29, “slept and didn’t sleep” as he shuttled from bed to bed, cradling the children, he said in Arabic on Tuesday.
By the morning, the children were calm and happy for a few hours, running through the living room. Duaa, 6, the eldest, practiced the alphabet with Twka, as Lina, blind, learned her way by sound and touch through their new space.
“It’s beautiful,” she said.
After 10 months in a homeless shelter, Mr. Alghaithi (pronounced al-GAY-thee) and his four daughters moved into a light-filled apartment in a two-family home in South Ozone Park on Monday night, sleeping in their own beds for the first time since a gas explosion destroyed their apartment in Harlem in October. The explosion killed the girls’ mother and left them with severe injuries and scars, both mental and physical.
In their new apartment, the children are rambunctious and full of life, even though tears are never far away. On Tuesday afternoon, Duaa screamed and threw her head back as Mr. Alghaithi gently tried to bend her arm, which is stiff with a labyrinth of inflamed burn scars. Twka pulled at the protective gloves covering her scarred hands and grabbed onto her father for support. Lina, who lost her sight in the explosion, dropped a cellphone she was playing with and fell to the ground in a frustrated heap. Only Afaf, 2, in a high chair, stayed calm, munching on sugar cereal.
“By God, it is hard for me to see them suffering,” Mr. Alghaithi said, distraught. “But I have no other choice. There are days when, well, I can’t even describe to you how bad it gets.”
Mr. Alghaithi, an immigrant from Yemen, was not home when the explosion occurred at 10 West 119th Street. The family had just moved to New York from Hamtramck, Mich., 10 days before, because Mr. Alghaithi had found work on the overnight shift at a grocery.
Some residents of the building said, afterward, that that they had smelled gas in the building. But Con Edison officials said no one had called to complain. Fire marshals said shortly after the explosion that they believed it was caused by a gas leak behind the stove in the Alghaithis’ apartment.
Mr. Alghaithi said on Tuesday he had not noticed any odor before the accident.
The family is suing both Con Edison and the building’s owner, saying that it was the landlord’s responsibility to make sure the stove was properly connected and that the leak might not have originated in the Alghaithis’ apartment, said Josh Pollack, a lawyer for the family.
For two months after the accident, Mr. Alghaithi kept a 24-hour vigil at the burn unit at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. His wife died after three weeks, without regaining consciousness. The children at first were indistinguishable from each other, their faces black and swollen, their bodies wrapped in white bandages.
Afaf was burned over 70 percent of her body. Twka’s vocal chords and trachea were burned, and her teeth disintegrated in the blaze. Lina was blinded. Duaa was so badly burned that for more than six months she could breathe only through a tube in her throat and needed a feeding tube to eat. She was transferred to St. Mary’s Rehabilitation Center for Children in Bayside, Queens in February, and was finally released from the hospital last week.
Duaa’s homecoming was particularly meaningful, as it brought the children back together again as a family, Mr. Alghaithi said. “Seeing my children playing and hanging around is the happiest thing for me now. These are my children. I am living for them. The children are what keep me going and fighting,” he said.
Mr. Alghaithi is now on welfare, his life an endless round of burn-dressing changes and doctors’ appointments. His mother, Wasifah Ali, 49, came from Yemen to help care for the children, but her visa expires in November. Mr. Alghaithi said that he did not know what he would do without her. The children now all refer to their grandmother as their mother.
Night is both the hardest and the most emotional time in his new life, he said. The children wake up frequently, despite frequent doses of Benadryl, an antihistamine used to counter the itching from their scars. He hugs them one by one until they go back to sleep, and then rests himself, after handing over duties to his mother at 6 a.m. Sometimes, he pulls all the mattresses onto the floor and lets all the children sleep together with him.
“Then it’s like I have the whole world in my arms,” he said.