The Iraqi refugee was 12 years old in 2005 when a stray rocket exploded next to him as he stood in front of his Baghdad home. The explosion ripped away his right leg and gouged his body with shrapnel wounds. His journey from war-torn Iraq to a new life in Dayton is marked by many milestones, but he would say none is bigger than the opportunity to return the gift of life at the Friday, Oct. 12 blood drive.
“I am happy to donate,” Nimr said as he held the “Blood Donors Rock” lanyard he received at the Donor Café. He glanced at his empty pant leg and added, “Because I’ve been in this situation, where people have given me blood before.”
The same rocket that shattered his body fatally wounded a neighbor. “The bomb just went ‘woof’ – the next thing I am in the hospital,” he says. “I lost a lot of blood. I felt the blood inside my body. The doctor didn’t know. I said my back hurt, they flipped me over and saw my back bleeding.”
“There were two holes in my back,” he said indicating the baseball-size of the wounds with his hands. “The neighbor to us, he got hit in the back this size,” he says indicating a coin-shaped wound with his thumb and finger, “and he died.” The shrapnel had reached his heart.
“After I got hurt my father said we’re not going to stay here anymore,” he recalled. “He said we have to leave before something happens to all of us. So we went to Syria.”
Nimr with his parents, three brothers and two sisters fled to Syria where they lived as refugees for three years, their status determined monthly. They sought immigration help from the United Nations and Catholic Social Services facilitated the move to Dayton.
Nimr flourished in his new home. He learned English quickly and impressed his new friends at Belmont with his ability to ride a bike and play soccer on one leg. “If I use the prosthetic leg and I am walking with someone I can’t keep up,” he said. “I walk faster and do steps better with crutches.”
He also built upper body strength that made him a surprising force at wrestling. He joined the Belmont team and made headlines for winning a gold medal his 130-pound weight division in the city invitational tournament.
Like most American teens, he set his sights on getting his driver’s license and now drives to school. He has given up sports his senior year, a decision his coach understood. “I have to help my family,” he said. “I can’t leave them alone.”
Nimr’s father was a plumber by trade when they lived in Iraq. He has no license here, so his earnings are limited. But they have green cards and a path toward citizenship, and that feeds Nimr’s dreams for the future.
“I like plumbing and electrical work,” he says, “and I’m good at it.” His plan after graduation is to work as a plumber, earn a license and start his own company. He can then employ his father and brothers, and eventually attend college.
The journey continues for young Nimr Ibrahim. In his young life he has been a survivor, a fighter, a Belmont Bison and now a blood donor. As he says, he moves faster on crutches, even when he pulls himself onto the donor bed.