Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Afghan girl who lost arm in war learns to paint in Los Angeles

by Take Two®

Afghan war victim Shah Bibi Tarakhail uses her new prosthetic arm to paint during a private session with artist Dayvd Whaley at Galerie Michael in Beverly Hills, Calif., Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Shah Bibi, a 7-year-old Afghani who lost her arm after picking up a grenade, received a new prosthetic arm at Shriners Hospital for Children and will be heading back home to her family on April 8, though she will return to Southern California in coming summers for additional medical procedures, including receiving a prosthetic eye. Damian Dovarganes/AP

The U.S. is reducing its military role in Afghanistan, but philanthropic groups continue to make positive change. 

A local group called Children of War Foundation recently brought a 7-year-old girl named Shah Bibi Tarakhail to Southern California to get her fitted with a prosthetic arm. She lost her right arm and right eye after picking up a grenade in her village last year. The blast also killed her brother. 

Since being fitted with her prosthetic arm, Shah Bibi has picked up painting, impressing her doctors, L.A. artist Dayvd Whaley and Galerie Michael owner Michael Schwartz. 

With more on this story is David Kraft, a technician at Shriners Hospital for Children in Los Angeles who worked closely with Shah Bibi. He also has a prosthetic arm similar to the one given to Shah Bibi. 


Can you tell us a bit more about this young girl? How did she come to be injured?

She apparently was picking up an explosive device and I think she was throwing or playing with it and it ended up exploding, and that’s how she lost her arm and she also lost her eye. That caused a lot of facial skin damage and damage to her legs, too.

I understand that this explosion killed her brother, correct?

Yes, one of her siblings was killed.

What were some of your impressions when you met this girl traveling a long way from Afghanistan to Southern California?

She was a little scared…there was a language barrier. But after a while — after we worked with her and fitted her — she opened up and started smiling more. It was a very positive thing.

You worked with her to give a new prosthetic arm. Can you tell us about this new arm?

The prosthesis is more intended to be an assist. She would still be able to eat and write with her other side. The prosthesis is if she were to hold an object...let’s say she was cutting a piece of paper, she can hold the paper in her prosthesis.

One of the things she's been able to do is paint. Can you tell us about her painting?

I kind of saw her painting and she actually likes to use the brush in the prosthetic side, which is interesting. I’m guessing it's because she was right hand dominant before she lost her arm. She seems to get a lot of enjoyment out of it. It kind of brings her back to life. She really comes to life when she's painting.

What will happen next for Shah Bibi Tarkhail?

They're going to do something with her right eye. I don’t know if that involves plastic surgery or what, but they will be doing some reconstruction and fitting her with an artificial eye.

What will you miss most about working with her?

[…] She seemed very appreciative of what we did. I worry about her going to Afghanistan – I know it’s a pretty hard place, especially for someone with a disability like that. 

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