Please read this post with a strong heart. I still suggest do read as this is not fiction but a wretched truth of COVID-19 and its toll on doctors.
On May 29th, Fasih called me and told, “Dr. Mahmood passed away.” ( Dr. Mahmood was Fasih’s long time freind and colleague and had spent last 10 years in Makkah with him as a very close friend).
Me: What? What happened?
Fasih: His wife Huma called me yesterday that Mahmood was having breathlessness, and I suggested him to immediately go to ER, and phoned Dr. Qazi Moinuddin Ahmed to admit him in Zahir Hopsital.
Fasih: Today morning I woke up to check for him, and called Moin, and he informed me, Mahmood passed away within hours of admission due to COVID-19. The hospital is now planning for his burial. And his family has not been reached out.
Fasih: I called Huma and first thing she said was, “Fasih bhai Mahmood is not picking up the phone.”
Fasih continued: I told her, “Dr. Huma, I am so sorry, Mahmood’s health deterioted after you he was kept in isolation. Unfortunately, Mahmood is no more.”
Huma winced on the phone.
Fasih: Please rush to the hospital, and have a last look at him please.
Huma went to hospital and then also accopmanied them to the graveyard to witness his burial.
After that, she too had to go into isolation with all her grief for 2 weeks. Both her kids were overseas, and too far to only reach through phone.
In one of the comments on Fasih’s wall, Dr Moin write, “Dr. Huma was a symbol of grace and strength, as she watched her husband the last time, with calm, and patience while we all were crying hard.
After Mahmood bhai, Fasih was visibly shattered. He had to break the news of his death to his wife, children and even to his relatives in Karachi, and that took a huge toll on him. All he talked was about Mahmood on all phone calls, until his own brother fell to COVID-19 in Karachi. Ofcourse with this recent tragedy, he left no efforts to get his brother into the best care and treatment.
I still did not have the courage to speak to Huma for weeks and I mustered the courage to call her around June 10, and she was still only “Thankful to Fasih for his help.”
I was bewildered at her grace, and condoled my heart out. She was still alone, in isolation and said all that helped her was prayers.
Just in next 10 days, on June 21, it was Huma calling me to support me after Fasih was admitted to hospital.
She made every effort to cheer me up and even when I told her, Huma, I dont understand how can you be so positive, when you are grieving yourself, she said, “Ilmana, Fasih bhai is healthy. And he is strong and resilient. Mahmood was diabetic. More than that, Mahmood wanted to die and be buried in Makkah. I am grateful to Allah he fulfilled his dream.”
I knew Huma was going out of the way to support me, and trying to find ‘positivity’ in her own husband’s death, just to cheer me up.
In subsequent calls all through Friday, she kept cheering me up with funny things like,
“Take your best clothes, now you will spend time with Fasih in his recovery, and he will be so motivated to get well soon, seeing you graceful.”…. numerous other cheezy suggestions.
She made every effort to express how exciting it would be for Fasih to be ‘enjoying the rest’ while I will look after Taj, under his supervision in his convalescence.
She had even given me a ‘gaurantee’, “Just wait and watch how bravely Fasih bhai will come out of this. Fasih is a person of different mould.”
I would put the phone down, motivated, but also at the same time, be in awe of the grace and strength of this selfless woman who was feigning to forget her pain, only to cheer me up. I knew and had seen very closely, and how close and beautiful couple Huma and Mahmood bhai were. It takes great courage to overcome one’s grief to cheer someone else up. My massive respect to her, and am indebted for life to her.
On the tragic Friday of 26 June, when the skies came falling on us, Huma called me crying, “Ilmana I have nothing to say. I am sorry, but I was sure Fasih bhai will brave through. I can still not believe it. I cannot even accept it.”
After that until today, I did not recieve any phone or message from Huma. I also was not in a state of mind to even notice it. So it just struck me suddenly yesterday and I sent her a message. Today I recieved a message from her, from the real Huma who was crying and mourning the loss of her husband, even after 2 months.
“Ilmana, I had no strength to call you. Its getting worse with time, and absence of Mahmood is getting more and more unbearable. I dont know how will life go on. This is too lonely a life without him. I know you are also in the same situation. I know what you must be going through. I dont know why and how, but our lives have been destroyed within days.”
Dr. Huma is now back to work after 2 weeks of break after Dr. Mahmood’s death as, “It is so hard to stay alone. I am back to clinic and also seeing patients, including COVID, just to pass rest of my life.”
I still did not have the courage to call her back. But I am mustering courage, and I will. She was the pillar of support and hope to me when I was the most fearful. For some reason, or for obvious reasons, I have lost all fear from my life. Alhamdulillah.
May all the current frontline doctors stay safe and strong.