OAKLAND -- When Abdallah al-Athamna received his first prosthetic leg here six years ago, the first thing he did that afternoon with his host family was ride a bike. Only, the one person who always wanted to see him do it was missing. His mother.
Abdallah lost his mother, two younger sisters and 15 other members of his extended family when an Israeli rocket hit his family home in the Palestinian city of Beit Hanoun, on the northeast edge of the Gaza Strip in 2006. He also lost his lower right leg.
Seven years later, Abdallah is back in the Bay Area with the same host family to receive a new prosthetic leg. Although Abdallah has been through the process before, time naturally has changed that 7-year-old boy.
"Considering all what's happened to him I'm actually surprised he still has a smile sometimes," said Adli Rasheed, a member of his host family. "He's just trying to move on with his life."
Now 13, he wears gel in his hair and no longer has nightmares. He smiles when Rasheed points out his new look, and Fatima Rasheed remarks that his grasp of English has improved over the years.
Not only has his English improved, so have his athletic abilities. Since he arrived here about three weeks ago to stay with his host family in San Ramon, he has played soccer, been sailing and gone swimming at the beach. Abdallah says he plays soccer every other day back home.
This is a far cry from Abdallah's struggles years ago, following the bombing. However, with help from the Palestine Children's Relief Fund -- an American humanitarian organization that provides free medical services in the U.S. for sick and injured children -- Abdallah got the chance to come to America to receive a prosthetic leg so he could walk again.
"It's really great because there are doctors willing to donate their services and people wiling to dedicate time," said Samar Aburahma, a volunteer with the relief fund. "I think it's important that if you are able to give a child their childhood back, then why not."
This time around, Tony LaFrance, a certified prosthetist-orthotist at Laurence Orthopedics in Oakland, is donating his services to help Abdallah get a new prosthesis since he has outgrown his old one.
Two months ago in Palestine, he had surgery to arrest the bone growth on his tibia which changed the shape of his limb.
On Wednesday afternoon, Abdallah sat quietly in the office as LaFrance made a cast of his limb over his silicone liner. The cast will give LaFrance as close to an exact duplicate of what his limb is. Then he will fit Abdallah for his socket and make adjustments to the prosthesis until he is comfortable with it.
Abdallah told his host family he hopes to be home before the end of Ramadan on Aug. 7.
Back home in Beit Hanoun, Fatima Rasheed says Abdallah is one of the top students in his class and that he told her he dreams of becoming a doctor one day.
"He knows what he wants and that's great," Fatima Rasheed said. "The life and the circumstances he's in, it pushes him to know and to grow up and to be more serious and take life more seriously."
As he prepared to leave the doctors' office, Abdallah said he already feels better. And when he's asked what he likes about America he doesn't hesitate to answer.
"I like everything here," he said with a laugh.