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  1. ITV Report

Born without legs, Syrian refugee Maya Meri takes her first unaided steps using prosthetic limbs

  • Video report by ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine

A Syrian girl born with no legs who received prosthetics in Turkey thanks to a kind-hearted doctor has taken her first unaided steps using her new limbs.

Eight-year-old Maya Meri, who has a condition called congenital amputation, was gifted a pair of prosthetic legs after Dr Mehmet Culcu saw footage of her walking on contraptions made from tin cans, plastic tubes and fabric.

The doctor agreed to help Maya for free and had her and father Mohammed - who has the same condition - evacuated to Turkey where she was fitted with new legs.

Less than a month later she had learned to walk.

Maya's father made her makeshift legs to help her get around one of Syria's camps for the displaced. Credit: ITV News

Maya and her father's story is nothing short of extraordinary.

When war broke out they fled to Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, a region that had not yet been attacked.

“We fled to an area that has not witnessed bombardment but it was difficult to live there in a tent on a mountain,” father Mohammed said.

In the camp Maya had to crawl on the bare earth to get anywhere so her father "thought of doing something that would protect her while on the ground from stones and other things", and created her limbs from tin cans, plastic tubes and fabric.

Maya quickly learned to use them and video of her walking at the Idlib camp appeared online.

And when a Turkish prosthetics specialist saw the footage, he did everything he could to get her to his surgery in Istanbul.

Maya has been practising to walk for around a month. Credit: ITV News

Dr Mehmet Culcu reached out to various humanitarian organisations and told them that if they could bring her to Turkey, he would take on her case pro-bono.

She was evacuated from Syria and arrived at Dr Culcu's Istanbul surgery days later. Following medical examination he declared with a smile: “I’m happy to say Maya is going to walk."

It was initially thought it would take around two-and-a-half months for her to walk unaided, however Dr Culcu said: “If Maya continues to learn so fast and be so enthusiastic, it might be completed in a shorter time."

Less than a month later, ITV News filmed her walking unaided.

Dr Mehmet Culcu met Maya and her father at his Istanbul surgery. Credit: ITV News