BY: DR. WASFA FAROOQ BADSHAH, M.B.B.S., BATCH XVI
Darkness always terrified me. Something about the unknown triggers a reflex so primitive and deep-rooted that a single sound without a visual can exponentially increase my heart rate within a second. As a child, I had invented a way to stay calm and repeat to myself that monsters don’t exist. And sure enough, as I took a deep breath and looked around, I saw Hameed walking towards me and my heart beat settled down. I watched his sombre figure sit down next to me, looking more forlorn than I had seen him in a while. He had come for our monthly tradition of exchanging updates but it would begin, as it usually did, with a grieving session that helped process all the hurt we ended up absorbing from the suffering around us.
Hameed is one of two people in my world that have lead me to some life-changing realizations. Some people enlighten you, some people engage you in discussions that make you think outside the box but then there are those rare people whose soul shines so brightly, that they help you find hidden parts of yourself you never knew existed. They make you want to fix the damage around you and inside you.
Hameed spent more time in the hospital than anywhere else. He isn’t a doctor or a nurse, just an advocate for those who don’t have a voice. He is the support system for the helpless and oppressed. He spends his time and his connections making sure people get where they need to at the right time. He could never go to school himself but his astute powers of observation helped him identify one of the biggest flaws in the system that could potentially eliminate numerous preventable deaths. Communication. The patient needs to get to the right place at the right time and get checked by the right doctor. So, he spends his time being the middle man for people who get lost before even locating a solution or getting diagnosed. The only measure of his success is the admiration he receives from hundreds of patients’ families who sincerely believe that his timely guidance saved their lives.
You know how we say – not all superheroes wear capes? I agree. But not all superheroes wear lab coats or stethoscopes either.
Hameed started telling me today’s story. A middle-aged woman desperately needed blood. Her brother had been told to arrange it within the hour but their local blood banks did not have her rare blood group. He frantically asked around for more options while carrying the responsibility of his sister’s life in his hands. He got Hameed’s number from an attendant in the same ward and contacted him for help. Hameed worked at the speed of lightning, pulled every contact he knew at the blood bank of a local government hospital and reported back that it was available and just a doctor’s note was needed. The patient’s brother, running out of time, hitched a ride on someone’s bike, sped through Korangi and at a sharp turn collided head-on with a bus that had been hurtling through in the wrong direction because of roadworks on the opposite side. He was found in a pool of his blood and announced dead on arrival two hours later in the Emergency Department of the same hospital his sister breathed her last, just half an hour after him.
Empathy was turning out to be Hameed’s worst friend. As we silently lamented the loss of two strangers, we pondered the cruelest thought of all. Was there really any way of easing their suffering? What was the point of it all? Every time our efforts don’t succeed, Hameed seems to mirror so many desperately familiar emotions. I’ve realized that the walls of class, education, and places of birth mean nothing. Human beings all begin from the same three primary colours. We get shaded in different combinations as we face our unique experiences, often appearing different but in actuality, under those newly added layers – the same primary colours remain intact, waiting to reveal themselves to the people brave enough to reveal themselves first.
About the author: A young doctor devoted to deconstructing walls.