My Story – originally published in youThink magazine in 2012.
My name is Hina. I am 26 years old. At the age of 12, I was diagnosed with abscess (pus collection) in my spinal cord which damaged some nerves due to which I was paralyzed from the waist below. It was like the lower part of me was just not there. People gathered around me, touched me, pinched me and even pricked me with needles but I felt nothing. I couldn’t move even if I wanted to no matter how hard I tried. My life was suddenly altered. I could no longer be the independent, active, outgoing girl I was. My wings were clipped.
After my first surgery when my doctor informed my family that the surgery was successful, I was stable and the infection was cleaned, my Uncle thanked God it was not a tumor. I mean alhumdulillah, right? But wait, my doctor, who probably knew something about cutting up humans but nothing about being humane, made a callus remark. He said that if I had been suffering from tumor it would have been easier for me as I would have died sooner rather than becoming a vegetable. My family was shocked – a doctor preferring death for their baby girl. Father was furious, but remained outwardly calm and retorted, “You are not the end of the world. You can keep your Science, your medicine. My daughter has Allah and He is sufficient for her.” Even to this day my Uncle flares up at the mention of that doctor’s name.
They say that all journeys begin with a single step, and that is the most difficult one, but I never had to take it. In that moment, when my father’s soul kneeled and the prayer of his heart reached Allah, my future was shaped. You see he never told me what the doctor said. He did not tell me that my life was over and that I could not achieve my dreams. He did not tell me so I didn’t know. My parents decided not to raise me on doubts but possibilities. They told me to continue working towards my future even if the pace was slow. They told me that Allah tests those He loves so I may remain steadfast on my religion. They told me stories of Prophets like Hazrat Ayub (A.S.) so I may learn acceptance and patience. They told me that no soul is tested beyond its limit so I shall remain strong. And they told me that losing one thing is not an excuse to not thank Allah for all the other blessings He has bestowed, so I may learn gratitude and never complain. They taught me that I will never stop trying.
Unfortunately, I relapsed twice that same year and had to undergo two more surgeries. Finally, when I had enough strength my parents now focused on my rehabilitation. When it came to my treatments there was no stone left unturned. Money was spent like water and there was not a single allopathic, homeopathic, natural/alternate medicine or spiritual healer that I did not go to in Karachi, Pakistan. Only I know the things I had to endure, the stuff I had to eat or drink and the routines that I had to follow so that my parents could sleep peacefully at night, expecting me to participate in and win a 400m relay race the next day. I had to put my foot down finally, as I was tired of people making false promises to my parents, building up their hopes and making money out of it. I only concentrated on my physical and occupational therapy twice a day everyday and Alhumdulillah I was showing small signs of recovery. I started sitting with support without feeling dizzy. In a few months, I could even change sides during sleep which initially my mother had to do every two hours so that I would not end up having bed sores. I finally learnt how to maneuver on and off my wheelchair. I started gaining some sensation in my lower limbs. For eight months I studied a little on my own at home but one day my physical therapist, who wanted me both emotionally and physically stable, announced that that it was time to go back to school.
I admit it was not easy for me. I was being asked to go back to a place where I had played basket ball and badminton, where I was in the student council and school band, where I stood up on stage and acted my part in dramas. I stood outside the gate of my school on my wheelchair and I was scared. I was not the same person anymore. I did not know how my classmates would react. I did not know how other students or the teachers would treat me. I held my father’s hand as my therapist pushed the wheelchair and I entered my school to the screams of joy from my friends. With the exception of my best friend, this was the first time any other person had seen me. They hugged me and welcomed me and bombarded me with all sorts of questions, the most common being, when was I coming back? They already answered that question for me. ‘Soon’, I told them and smiled. The day I officially came back to school I was given a surprise welcome back party during school hours. My friends, classmates, teachers, the management and all other students who did not even know me went out of their way to make things easy for me.
A special mention here to my best friend. Like a sister I never had, she stood by me through thick and thin and pulled me through. Her company was a comfort for me. She never felt sorry for me and nor did she let me feel sorry for myself. She taught me that being in a wheelchair does not mean that I should be ashamed to voice my views and it was because of her that I overcame my phobia of crowds. That year, I participated in a drama written and directed by her. I also helped in directing and organizing performances for the annual school function. I also achieved highest marks in Urdu, and managed to score a basket during one of our P.E. classes. For my friends, nothing had changed only I could do awesome things while sitting on a wheelchair. And the wheelchair, it was never awkward just iconic. It was signed by and doodled on by friends and also they learnt new tricks and stunts with it. And while all this was happening I could now move the toes of my right foot!
I saw life in a different light and I liked it. I do not remember ever being depressed. I do not remember being whiny or angry. I do not remember complaining. I had no reason to feel any of these emotions. My confidence was built by the fact that my family and friends were not embarrassed to be seen with me in public. They walked oh so proudly. I was happy, I had a killer sense of humor and I was not afraid to be myself anymore. People would have understood my anger, depression or complaints but they did not understand my happiness, my smile and my patience. To them it meant that I was not trying hard enough. That I was content the way I am, and in a way they were right. The acceptance did not come overnight but it did. If there was progress waiting for me then I was working towards it but I was also ready for the worst scenarios. That is the only lesson I learned that life can hand you anything you just have to deal with it. Allah is the best of planners and if this was what was in store for me then I am sure the results will work in my favor. I was not disappointed by this approach as a year and half later I started standing with support. A few months after that, I took my first few steps with the help of a walker. My balance was bad, my posture was poor but I was reaching there. Slowly and gradually, I became a little less dependent as I started to learn to do things on my own. But unfortunately, two months before I was supposed to appear for my O-Levels Examinations I relapsed again.
In February 2001, when I went back with the same kind of severe pain and the doctor saw me walking he could not believe his eyes! In excruciating pain he made me walk around his clinic all the while commenting, “This is not possible. She cannot walk. The ‘Science’ does not allow this!” That day my parents held me proudly and beaming my dad reminded him, “I told you where your medicine ends, Allah’s miracles begin!”
In his blind faith on medicine he misdiagnosed and nearly DID kill me but fortunately, my parents changed doctors in time and I had to go through another very painful surgery. But that is a story for another time. Although, I would like to mention here that not only did I became friends with my new doctor but he told me, “Hina whatever you have achieved till now is a miracle, and whatever you will achieve from now inshaAllah is all written in books! You, my girl, are halfway there.”
My parents cherish the moment they realized that Allah had truly blessed their daughter. She had learned to fly with her broken wings! Did they know the possibilities? No. But in their unconditional love they turned to Allah and found hope ,and in their hope I found the courage to fight and never give up. As Robert Brault says, when hope becomes hopelessness, it becomes faith. And I am a reflection of their faith.