For many parents, seeing their child walk for the first time is a memorable experience, but for Itaf Shallouf, seeing her daughters' first steps seemed like a miracle. Her twin girls were born without functional legs.
Shallouf's daughters, who are 2, suffered from a type of congenital deficiency that left them without the tibia bone in their lower legs, leaving them unable to walk. Without treatment it was likely that Lamise Shallouf and her sister Rimas would have spent much of their lives in wheelchairs.
But the toddlers are now taking their first steps, thanks in part to the help of the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund, which works to bring children from the Middle East to the U.S. for medical treatment.
The girls arrived with their mother in November and have undergone a series of surgeries and prosthetic fittings at the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Los Angeles.
Lamise had to have both of her lower legs removed, while Rimas only had one leg removed. But only a few months after their surgery both girls are already on the move, thanks to pint-size prosthetics. Lamise wears short prosthetics called "stubbies" that have treads on the bottom that work like built-in sneakers. Rimas was given a straight leg prosthesis and in a few years will be given a knee unit that will allow her to bend her leg.
"It was difficult, but thank God. God somehow helps us to pull through," Shallouf told ABCNews.com affiliate KABC-TV.
Lulu Emery, who works for the Southern California chapter of the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund, has been with the girls as they have endured numerous doctor visits over the last few months and is amazed at how well they have reacted to treatment.
"They've adjusted so much," said Emery. "Now they flirt with the staff in the hospital and everyone loves them."
The girls will go back with their mother to live in Gaza, but next year they are expected to temporarily return to the U.S. for follow-up treatments.