A Canadian teenager injured in the Kenya terrorist attack is “conscious and resting” at a Toronto hospital following surgery Sunday, according to a spokesperson for the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
More than a week since the bloody assault that killed at least 67 people at Nairobi’s Westgate mall – and after three surgical procedures and two blood transfusions across the globe – Toronto-born Fardosa Abdi was transferred to Sunnybrook and treated in the trauma room before surgery Sunday.
“She underwent a procedure to help further care for the injuries she suffered in the attack,” the hospital said in a statement released Monday at the family’s request. “Sunnybrook’s clinical teams are continuing to assess her ongoing needs for care.”
Fardosa suffered extensive injuries to her right leg and lower body from two gunshot wounds and the impact of an explosion, according to her Minnesota-based aunt, Hodan Hassan. The 17-year-old, who last visited her home city this past summer, was nearing high-school graduation in Kenya and planned to become a physician in either Toronto or Minnesota.
Today, though, she faces an uphill battle.
Kenyan doctors warned Fardowsa may never walk again, Ms. Hassan said, and the young girl appeared last week to be in emotional distress – when she heard a pen fall onto the floor of her Kenyan hospital room, she was convinced it was a gunshot and suffered a panic attack.
Fardosa’s younger sister, Dheeman, 16, was also at the mall at the time of the attack, but she suffered less severe injuries and is not being treated at Sunnybrook, a hospital spokesperson said in an e-mail.
Craig DuHamel said he couldn’t confirm Fardosa’s injuries, citing patient confidentiality, but said Sunnybrook was “the most likely hospital” to treat the teenager given the injuries she sustained.
“Sunnybrook has the largest trauma and serious burn program in the country,” he said, later adding that Fardosa is “conscious and resting after surgery.”
The Abdi family, which moved to Kenya for the father’s work in real estate a few years ago, have asked for privacy over the next few days as they consider “next steps in her care” following Sunday’s surgery.
“Ms. Abdi is fortunate to have the strong support of her family and community in the Greater Toronto Area, who will help with her recovery,” the statement says.
Canadian consular officials met with the Abdi family while they were still in Kenya, helping facilitate the hospital transfer and putting the family in touch with Ontario health officials regarding medical care in the province, a federal government official said Monday.
“The mission did a tremendous amount of work under really difficult circumstances – they had lost one of their own as well,” the official said, referring to 29-year-old Canadian diplomat Annemarie Desloges, one of two Canadians who died in the attack. “They worked very, very closely with the family.”
It remains unclear whether the family paid for the hospital transfer or relied on the Distressed Canadian Fund, (essentially a loan fund for Canadians stranded abroad) or some other source of federal assistance. It’s also unclear whether Fardosa qualifies for health insurance under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.
Ontario Health Ministry spokesman David Jensen said he can’t comment on individual cases, but he pointed out there are exceptions to the residency requirements for coverage – including studying outside Canada. Although a person must typically be in the province for at least 153 days in any 12-month period, a person can remain insured if he or she is pursuing full-time studies in another Canadian jurisdiction or abroad.
When asked whether Fardosa’s high school education qualifies as full-time study outside Canada, Mr. Jensen said, “Yes.” The rules also state that the student must not establish a primary residence outside the province and must meet specific residency requirements in the two years leading up to the departure.
The two sisters had been shopping at the mall on Sept. 21, when the attackers stormed in with guns blazing, killing dozens of people in cold blood. The women rushed to the rooftop, where they joined scores of others struggling to clamber over a gate to safety.
One or more of the attackers, though, threw a grenade and opened fire with an assault rifle. The grenade hit Fardosa on her right leg, and both sisters were wounded by the explosion and the bullets.
Unable to move, they suffered two more hours of helpless terror on the roof, before they were finally rescued. Dheeman was discharged from a Kenyan hospital last week, with her hand heavily bandaged.
With reports from Geoffrey York in Nairobi and Josh Wingrove in Ottawa