Asylum seekers learning to cope without hands after frostbitten walk into Canada – Manitoba

It’s been exactly two months since Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal almost froze to death walking across the border into Manitoba from the United States, and while they’re grateful to be in Canada, they’re struggling to cope.

Arriving with frostbite after a seven-hour trek across snow-covered farmers’ fields, the Ghanain men both had all their fingers amputated. Mohammed also lost his thumbs and parts of his ears.

The hardest part, they say, is having to depend on others for help with everyday activities like getting dressed.

‘I hope we can stay forever.’
– Seidu Mohammed

“It’s really hard for me to lace [up] my boots,” says Iyal, 35. “Sometimes when I’m going to wear my pants, the way I zip it or … put my belt in is very hard for me and I have to get somebody to assist me,” he said. 

One of the things he’s relearning is personal hygiene. Using the toilet and taking a shower are still a challenge.

Still, he says, he’s the lucky one; with one full thumb, he can still do a lot for himself, and he wonders when he’ll be able to cook again.

“We have African food called foufou and peanut butter soup — that’s the favourite I used to cook,” he says. “I’m just thinking about it now, how can I do this thing?”

Asylum seekers learning to cope without hands after frostbitten walk into Canada2:09

Mohammed, 24, struggles even more with the basics of life. An occupational therapist is teaching him to eat by strapping spoons and forks to the stump where his fingers used to be.

Razak Iyal says he’s the lucky one: With one full thumb left, he can still do a lot for himself. (CBC News)

“I’m trying to be independent for myself because I don’t want them always to be doing things to me. If they’re not there, what am I gonna do?” he asks with a shrug.

Doctors have talked to him about amputating a toe so it can be fashioned into a thumb, but he refuses.

“I don’t want them to touch my…

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