Sunday, June 30, 2013

Article in London Link

I have been meaning to write another post but in the meantime, here is a little reading material! I am featured in the summer 2013 issue of London Link magazine. If it looks familiar, it's because it is the same interview that was on the Muslim Heroes web site.

The article can be read at:

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My talk at TEDxGeorgiaTech

I know I told you all a long time ago that I would post this video of me speaking TEDxGeorgiaTech this past November.  I just found out a few days ago that it has been edited and published.

I must forewarn you again:  I randomly received a phone call asking if I was interested in talking just a few days before the event.  I was very busy that week in the neonatal ICU and had to come up with and memorize about fifteen minutes worth of material in a very short time.  So please excuse any mistakes!

I must say, though, that because I had only a short amount of time to think of what to say, I spoke from the heart.  The experience was quite cathartic

Thank you for watching.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Four years later

This is the blog post that I wrote after returning to my apartment from a long day in surgery on May 23, 2013.  This post seemed jumbled because I was extremely tired when I wrote it.  I could have written for about ten pages if I had not stopped myself.  That is why I stopped writing this and quickly posted up this Facebook status instead.  I am posting this now because I do not want it to become another piece that I write but never actually post.


That day has come again.

Before I start, I should let you know that I did not sleep last night.  I say this because I ask for you to please not judge my writing.  I was up studying last night later than I had planned to be and when I went to bed, I could not fall asleep, even though I was extremely fatigued.  I slept less than two hours on Monday night and about four hours on Tuesday night.  I knew the reason why I had not slept much those nights, but what about last night? I gave up on trying to fall asleep and I got out of bed around 3:30 AM this morning and was at the hospital to round on patients before 6 AM. I got back to my apartment around 8 PM.

“Oh, man, look at that date,” I thought to myself last night.  “Tomorrow is going to be just like any other day, just like it always is.  I wonder if anyone will even remember.” I mean, only two or three people even remember my birthday without having to be reminded by Facebook, but that’s understandable.  No one would remember this day.

As my head today was swimming in a sea of surgical procedures, anatomy landmarks and the “heavy head” feeling that often accompanies lack of sleep, it hit me.  It has been four years since I was crushed under the roof my family’s SUV and my life as I knew it changed.  My next thought was, “Why haven’t I written anything lately?”  I used to write relatively frequently, even when I was busy. I reminded myself how I am really mentally fatigued these days whenever I return to my apartment.  I also noted how I have not had really strong opinions, thoughts or emotions on anything in particular so I haven’t really had anything to write about. 

Then I realized something else:  my subconscious mind has prevented me from writing anything new on here.  This blog is read by more people that I ever could have imagined and, though that makes me very humbled and surprised, it also set a mental barrier.  I think maybe when I realized that many people were actually paying attention to the things I wrote, I became self-conscious.  One of the things that I adhere to and that some readers have commented on and admire is that I am honest—sometimes brutally honest.  I share my inner struggles and inner feelings.  I do so for cathartic purposes and because though our situations may be different, many people I already knew and those I have met because of my writings are able to relate to what I say.  I try to be honest and say the things that people do not usually mention for fear of being vulnerable or judged.

I realized today that I have not been writing as frequently because I do not want to seem like a “tortured soul”.  That was foolish of me.  Anyone can see the type of person I am by talking to me and though I sometimes think about things that people do not mention, that does not make me abnormal.

I shall return to being honest.

Four years.  On the surface, noting things on a particular date and observing the length of time that has surpassed seems like a futile practice.  This day isn’t as profound as one would expect it to be.  Thinking back, I can see how different each year has been.  On the one year anniversary of my accident, I was still living at home in Snellville.  I had not moved into my apartment in Athens.  In fact, I was still bargaining with my family to allow me to live by myself there without roommates or assistance.  I remember I had already made plans to do something with friends that day.  I was consciously trying to act completely normal that day, as if it was just like any other day, not for myself but for those close to me.  I did that every day and never allowed myself to be any other way.

I recall when it had been about six months after my accident and I was at the Shepherd Center for outpatient physical therapy.  There was one person there who had been paralyzed for four years and then somehow he was able to move his legs, so he was able to qualify again for physical therapy and was relearning how to walk.  Another girl had been paralyzed for seven years, first from neck down until the ability to move her arms progressively returned to her.  She said a few weeks ago, her mom was helping her shave her legs when she shouted, “Ouch!”  The razor had cut the skin on the girl’s leg and, for the first time in seven years, she had felt it.  I remember telling my family and friends this at the time and we all said or thought, “Wow, four years? Seven years?  That is so long.  They must be extremely patient.  How did they even survive for that long?  What did they do?  How did they cope?”

I didn’t expect to feel anything today.  Instead, although I was busy, I had the opportunity to be with my thoughts and reflect—something I have not done in a while.

I have spent a significant amount of time in this “new” body.  I have relearned how to move around and perform my activities of daily living.  As hard as it was, I also relearned how to learn and organize my thoughts.  That is what the people who do not see me every day or have just read my blog may have noticed.  My classmates and the faculty members at my school have noticed something else I have had to regain:  confidence.

This is my last week on a general surgery rotation.  It has been very tough for me.  I spend my nights trying to memorize anatomy and then I spend the following day in the operating room getting asked increasingly difficult questions by the surgeon and getting embarrassed in front of the surgery team.  I am also consistently reminded of how different I am by the way I have to scrub myself in for surgeries and be positioned with the help of an assistant in front of the patient’s body in order to see and help with the surgeries.  It was not a problem before and I didn’t think it was going to be a problem until I saw the surgeon growing impatient with me.  I almost wanted to apologize for my disabilities.

Sometimes I wonder how people would act and treat me if I was able to always stand and interact with them at eye level instead of having to look up at people.

Four years is a long time.  As I say each year, I did not think I would have made it this far.

My old self and abilities are just vague memories now.

For a long time after my accident in May 2009, whenever I would dream at night, I would be completely able-bodied and walking or running in my dreams.  I remember lying in my apartment in Athens about a year and a half or two years after my accident and having my first dream where I was in a wheelchair.

I woke up really sad.

It’s strange.  Whenever I do dream now, it’s usually about me being a wheelchair, but also being able to walk normally.  I am not sure why I even have a wheelchair in the dream or how I know I have a disability in the dream because I am clearly able to ambulate on my own two feet.  I remember in one dream, I saw one of my hospital mates and told him how I just keep the wheelchair because my legs sometimes get too tired of walking.  In my latest dream a few weeks, another hospital mate, Chase T., and I were walking around and joking about things.

Hopefully one day, that dream will come true.

Still, to this day, people ask me if I’ve noticed any changes.  “Still the same?” they ask.

I smile back.  “Yes, still the same.”

That is usually followed by a brief look of pity on their face.  Then they force a smile and try to say something encouraging like, “It’s okay! We don’t know what the future holds.  Stay strong!”

I smile once again and nod my head in agreement.

I do not pity me.  Yes, it has been a long time and of course I do wish things were different.  There is not much that I wouldn’t give up to be completely healed and “normal” again.

But after a long time of being this way, I have learned to look past it.

As I move forward, I only wish that others learn to look past this, too.


I ended this blog post quickly. But I ended it with a take-home point.  I knew I had too much to say and too many things I wanted to write about since it has been too long since I have done so.  I will write about all the other things in my head as soon as I can.

And because I've said that I usually have a song that I can associate with each of my blog posts, here is this post's song: