Monday, May 23, 2011

Two Years. The scars remind me that the past is real.

I started writing a blog post last week about finishing my first year of medical school, but stopped writing after about half a page. I looked at the date and my mind got distracted.

It has now been two full years since my accident. Two years. Wow, it’s hard to believe. It’s hard to believe I’ve come this far. I never thought I’d make it.

Things have become routine now. I sometimes forget about the way I used to do things before my accident.

When I look in the mirror, I still see a scar.

The scars remind me that the past is real.

I have several scars that have faded with time—some not fully, though. I had two prominent scars on my face that were not a direct result of my accident, but were due to the hospital staff in Augusta strapping my face mask on extra tight because I deliriously kept trying to rip it off. It left two deep, dark scars on each side of my nose. The one on my right side faded within the first year after much scar cream, but the one on my left side is still slightly visible.

The gnarly scar on my neck is still there. I believe the back scar is also still there, although it has probably faded significantly, as indicated by this photo from one year ago:

Why am I talking about scars? Sometimes I forget about my situation until I see them, and then I remember. The scars hide a lot.

I finished off a year of medical school! It’s been a long year, but it has also gone by so incredibly quick.

When I think back to one year ago, all I remember is apprehensiveness surrounding the whole thing. My parents were still trying to convince me to not live by myself. They were worried about how I’d live on my own and how I’d do in school with everything I have to balance. Other people were concerned about the same thing. I felt like people looked at me with doubt. I was concerned about how my classmates would treat me and look at me.

Throughout the year, I doubted myself many times. I came in very confident and almost immediately got shot down.

There was about a one month period when a certain medication I started put me into severe depression. Once I discovered what was making me feel like that, I immediately stopped it. That was not a bright time. I wrote about it, but did not post it. I will post it here now ("Bulletproof"). I’m glad that only lasted a short while.

I had a few meetings with some faculty members at school. I told them that I was frustrated with things, and they told me how they were all impressed at how I was dealing with things, progressing, and how far I was going. That was certainly encouraging.

Living alone and going to medical school a year after everything I have known for +22 years was turned upside-down really made me “grow up”, so to speak.

During year one post-injury, I was coping more with my physical situation. Over year two, I dealt with my mental situation. I’ve never worked so hard in my life and I can confidently say I worked harder than any of my classmates and anyone that I know.

There were times when I told myself I was in over my head. There were times when I wanted to quit. I became so frustrated with things because everything was different. I wasn’t the same person. I spent a long, long time studying things. On our weekly quizzes and on our exams, my grades were definitely not reflecting my effort at all.

Or perhaps they were reflecting my effort, considering certain circumstances. I was pulling my hair out because I really wasn’t the same person at all. I did not have the same mind. The scar on my neck reminds me of my traumatic brain injury; it reminds me of the time I spent on the brain injury floor; it reminds me of all the times I was told to reconsider professions; it reminds me of why I had to work so hard to keep my dream alive of becoming a physician.

Thankfully, I made it through alive.

I’ve decided to live in the present as much as I can. These past two years have gone by faster than I have ever thought, and two more years will go by just as quick. No doubt, though, I am surrounded by constant reminders of how different I am, and I am also grateful because I feel like they have given me a new outlook on things. I’ve always liked challenges.


  1. U remind me of why you are the man every day

  2. hammad Aslam! you are the man! i am sooooo proud of you and your accomplishments! May allah give you strength and perseverance and may you be successful every step of the way! you are awesome i'm so glad we are friends! YAY! =oD

  3. Alhamdulilah.
    Hammady-in the past 6 years i've known you-you have always put full effort in everything you've done. You give 110% in everything. I know med school has been difficult for you, but i'm glad you stuck it out and didn't give up because the Hammad Aslam that i know does not give up...
    Also i just kept thinking if you turned around you'd look like this:


  4. "Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars."
    -Khalil Gibran

    May Allah (SWT) be with you every step that you take and may He guide you with each decision you make.

  5. Hammad, you should be really proud of yourself! I cannot even imagine what it must have been like the past two years for you... but it is people like you that inspire the rest of us everyday!
    This past year as a M1 was hard for everyone, sometimes I thought I wasn't gonna make it myself, but you had all these extra challenges and kept (and keeps) fighting until the end. I def agree with you that you worked harder than any one of us! Congrats man!

  6. <3 you buddy.
    - kiskolee

  7. Saif - No, YOU'RE the man!

    Mehar - Thank you so much!! Ameen.

    Thaaaaaaraaaa - Thank you :) You do know me well. Hahaha, Chong Li Chong Li Chong Li Chong Li!!!

    Zaina - Ameen. I don't think I know you, but thank you!

    Julie - Thank you!! This means a lot coming from my classmate. I know this has been a hard year for everyone. I'm glad we both made it!

    Kisko - Love you too friend.

  8. Your perseverance, your effort, your attitude are all so inspirational.

    You've made it this far. You are a confirmation of your own strength. You KNOW you can achieve your dreams.

    And, when things get tough, make du'aa and put your trust in Allah. Remember that anything is possible by His will. Aaaand don't forget the heaps of ajr you get for your hardship & patience!

    May Allah guide you and make the rest of your journey ridiculously easy, iA :)

  9. May you always find the strength to get through the darkest of times, and also the happiness to enjoy the best of them.

    Allah has tested you in many ways, but He has also given you the will power to get through it all.

  10. Hammad from day one, I've always admired you for the person you are. I love reading your posts, blogs, and articles that are written about you. Everyone faces challenges in their lives, but some definitely have greater challenges than others. It's so easy for you to give up, I praise your determination for wanting to succeed in goals you set for yourself pre-injury. Keep your head up, failure isn't and will not ever be a part of you...Thanks for being an inspiration in my life.

  11. I came across your blog today and I was immediately amazed by your story. So amazed that I had to read every single post that you have written right way (sorry if that makes me a little creepy). My sister walked by as I was reading and asked why I was crying. I told her that these were happy tears, tears that came from realizing what the human spirit can overcome and how good people in the world truly are.

    I’m not sure if I can express my reaction and feelings in words. I can’t even begin to tell you how inspired I am by what you have been through. Not only that, but your attitude through it all. Your honesty and humility is incredible.

    Reading about you made me realize so much about myself that I just didn’t think of before or didn’t give any importance to. These twenty one years that I have spent on Earth have been great, but there is so much more that I could have done with them. The issues that I have had in y life seem so trivial and meaningless. You have given me the inspiration to change, to let go of these petty things, and focus on what is important: my family, Allah, and all that Allah has blessed me with.

    You are a stranger to me but the impact you have made on my life with your words is profound. I could go on forever about how incredible you are and how much of an inspiration you are. But, I’m sure that is all stuff you have heard before countless times. I just want to say thank you. My life from this point forward will be different Insha’Allah, and so much of that is due to you. I look forward to reading more blog posts. :)

  12. It takes a lot of courage and effort not to give up after what happened and i wish that your dreams come true with the help of Allah SWT!!!!:)

  13. Salaam,

    Reading your blog posts gives me a lot of hope in achieving my dreams.

    I don't have a physical disability but I do have a mental disability. I often have to deal with the scars of stigma that society puts on those with mental illnesses.

    Keep working hard and you will achieve your dreams in sha Allah

  14. Thank you SO much everyone. I do not know who you all are, but I love you all. You give me the encouragement and hope to move forward. Thank you.