What an empty and lonely day today, without Syed Fasihuddin !
It was the day of Arafah in Makkah. Every year 25-30 million muslim pilgrims converge on Makkah for Hajj from all over the world. And a city of 3 million, gets overwhelmed with 30 million plus pilgrims. And with that, there is pressure on medical services. For doctors and other healthcare workers, it is made mandatory to work in Hajj season for one month with 12 hours per day shifts, with no weekends.
For straight 25 years from 1990 to 2015, for 25 Hajj seasons, Fasih was the on duty Consultant Pulmonologist for the main Al Zahir Hospital in Makkah. Each year, like other doctors on duty, he would travel with critical patients in ambulance to enable them perform the day of Arafah. It is mandated by the Saudi authorities that if a pilgrim comes for Hajj from other parts of the world, no matter how sick they may get, they will be provided free healthcare, and free service to take them for the mandatory bits of Hajj including the stay of Arafah. A few times, the doctors including Fasih donned the ihram themselves, to perform the ‘flying Hajj’ as they called with their patients.
Dozens of ambulances, with Consultants assigned to the group would carry the critically ill patients to Arafah and bring them back to the hospital at the end of the day. Every year, Fasih would be one of the lead Pulmonologists in the team, with many locums coming from other cities in KSA. All these years, he managed hundreds of thousands of patients with pneumonias, chest infections, Asthmas, Allergies, LRTIs, URTIs etc in the hospital wards. It was in these wards, sometimes he even bumped into his teachers, old neighbors, relatives, childhood friends as Hajis who he had not met in years. Many many Hajis who travelled from different parts of the world carried his phone numbers given by friends and relatives and he helped whoever asked him for any help, on phone, in person or inservice as their doctor. It is in all these years that he even came to face the SARS & MERS pandemics in Makkah. And hence gleefully told his colleagues in Karachi in 2020, “COVID is my third Corona pandemic.”
In the last year, in 2015 when he was winding up to return to Karachi, he requested the hospital director to give him leave so he can perfrom complete Hajj himself, which he did.
Fasih, the foodie was excited he would be home after 25 years to celebrate Baqr Eids in rest of his years, to enjoy chops, grill, and pulaos, bihari kababs, hunter-beefs all his favourite delicacies. He had the opportunity to not just celebrate but hosted Eid/bbq parties on his favorite terrace in past 5 years.
It’s gutwrenching as a family, to even imagine all the Hajj, Eid and rest of the life going on without Fasih. Ofcourse, life goes on, as it always has, after every departure.
Today was my appoinment for Holter ECG monitoring for palpitations(my PATs), which is btw nothing serious. I sat in the hospital, waiting for my turn. I kept looking at my messenger, and there was no message coming from Fasih, wishing good luck or checking in how it went. Kids kept inquiring, but it wasnt the same. 😦
Checking in to each other on any appointment, meetings, or other events personal or for Taj, were our daily norm. Probaby we have to get used to feeling Fasih’s presence in spirits and that he is checking-in looking directly down from up above, and not through messenger messages. Habits need to be re-set. 😦
Day of Arafah Mubarak all those who are performing Hajj this year.