Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Since my last blog post, I have been fairly busy with my medical rotations. Currently, I have twenty-four hour shifts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.  When I am not in the hospital, I am trying to catch up on sleep or trying to study.

I use my standing wheelchair when I am in the operating room or sometimes when I am seeing patients.  When I am not doing that, I am usually sitting and observing/talking to patients or sitting at a desk and trying to study.  My leg muscles get really tight from sitting in one position for so long.  Scrubbing in (thoroughly scrubbing/washing the hands up to the elbows and wearing sterile gloves/apron) and keeping things sterile while in the operating room has proven to be an interesting challenge.  When I am fully scrubbed in, I cannot touch my wheelchair to move myself.  One of the nurses on the surgical team has to move my chair for me and raise/lower the standing mechanism on the chair so I do not touch anything that is not sterile.

This is a new experience for everyone.  The physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists, midwives, and other members of the medical staff have never had to figure out how to do things while in a wheelchair.  Things may take a few seconds to figure out, but I’ve noticed that most people don’t look at me any differently (or maybe they do look at me differently and I have just stopped noticing).

That’s why a practice question I came across earlier caused me to think about my progress.  The question stem described a couple whose newly born child had just passed away and were questioning what had happened and could not believe it.  The question then asked what stage they would go through next.

The K├╝bler-Ross model’s five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

I’ve been through pretty intense situations, so when did I experience this?  Did I go through all of these stages?

Let’s start with the first stage:  denial.  I am not sure if what I went through would be what others would consider as denial.  When I first heard about what had happened to me, I thought that I would be out of the hospital and 100% recovered in a few weeks.  My friends and family thought that as well.  It was not that we refused to believe the reality of the situation; we simply did not know exactly what to believe.  I had countless people asking me if I tried any specific surgeries or telling me about an old medicine man from their homeland that knows how to treat everything.  No one really knew what a spinal cord injury meant.  In regards to my brain injury, I would always tell my neuropsychologist, therapists, and physicians that there was no difference in the way my mind worked.

Once I learned about the extent of my injuries and what a spinal cord injury actually was, the harsh reality still didn’t settle within me or my family and friends.  As a therapist once said, everyone wants to be that guy who defies all the odds and leaves his wheelchair behind and walks out of the hospital.  I wanted to be that guy.  My family and friends were confident that I would be that guy.  We all hoped and prayed, all day, every day.

Every night, I went to bed praying and wishing that this was all a dream and that I would wake up like the old Hammad.  And then, every morning, I would wake up and nothing had changed.  It was hard for me at first to get motivated to get up and get out of bed, but I did it.  Sometimes I think I didn’t do it for myself; I did it for my family and friends.

This is not me.  This is not who I was.  This is not who I am.  This is not who I am supposed to be.  My loved ones and I tried hard to convince ourselves of those things.

I had a friend who told me it hurt her too much to look at me.  We had become good friends through my college years and our group of friends had plenty of good times together.  We did the funniest and craziest things during those years.  But to see me bearing the pain and disabilities that I had was too much for my friend to handle.  So I smiled and told her everything was okay and that I was fine.

My family and friends told me not to think of any other option for me but success and complete healing.  That is exactly what I did.

But what happens when the infinite amount of prayers, positive thoughts, well wishes, dreams, and goals fall short of making something—anything—change?  Where do you go from there?

I want to continue my story but this post is already getting a bit long.  I am talking about the past because I have met many new people who have asked me questions about my life and as I have said on here before, I do not want to forget my past.

To answer the question I asked above and to serve as a preview for my future posts, I end this post with a quote by the nineteenth century author Oscar Wilde:  The aim of life is self-development. To realize one's nature perfectly – that is what each of us is here for.


  1. Hammad Aslam,

    As an official OT stalker of your blog... Your blogs have such great insight... And you never fail to surprise me in your talent to express yourself in the perfect way. I know we discussed you being good with your patients on rotation in our interview.. But honestly it's no empathy it's your ability to relate to others with your words. Mashallah!

    1. Thank you so much, Sundas!! As a fellow health professional, your comments, compliments, encouragement, and tips mean a lot to me. Thanks!

  2. More posts, more posts, more posts, more posts!