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:


  1. Amazing. I've read your story many times, again, your story simply humbles my heart. Thank you for being so transparent, you are changing lives simply by sharing your story.


  2. You have reached superman status . Just want you to know that so many people look up to you. Your posts are just awesome. Keep writing because talent like that should not be hidden!

  3. You are a phenomenal writer. You reflect life and living. Thank you.

  4. I was just telling a friend about you the other day and I forgot to mention that you're paralyzed. I realized when she asked the name of your blog. So, just letting you know, there are people in the world who have never met you and are still able to look past your disability, even forget about it, because you're so much more than just someone who's in a wheelchair (Duh). Also, THAT. SONG. You have great taste in music.

  5. me and my family have you in our duas.

  6. we are not friends on facebook but we have many mutual friends and one of them told me about you and the accident in 2011 i think , the reason why she told me is because i went through a same type of incident at that time , my car hydroplaned and went 162 ft down in the ditch.. it was totally damaged but Alhamdulillah i came out of it scratch less just some bruises .. i got into it because i wasn't paying attention while driving.
    i asked her your name and looked you up, i could see some of the pictures in which you were in hospital and recovering.I could tell your accident was bad , but it never ever occurred to me that it was so severe because of your positive energy and a smiling face. i kept stalking you for a year or so and still couldn't tell your life was changed. the first time i found out that you couldn't walk is when you posted a link to your blog on your Facebook.
    i was Sad. extremely sad for you Hammad. I am totally a stranger to you but still , i can feel the pain in my heart. from that day till now .. i pray for you day and night. I know Allah taala will listen to all of us who pray for you and i can see u standing up on your feet again InshaAllah.
    i have never realized what i had , and what could i loose that day and how merciful Allah was to me. Sometimes He just puts us through hard times and troubles just to test us. for the ones like me who aren't strong enough, the test is easier and for the ones like you, the test is harder and duration is longer. i dont know when will it get over but i can tell you that you are doing really really fantastic.
    i have never had anyone in my life who have impressed me as much as you did .
    i have never seen anyone in life who is as strong as you are. as Humble and as Positive as you are.
    just know that there is more people praying for you than you'll ever know.
    take care

  7. I don't know you.

    To be honest, I stumbled on your blog by complete chance; but I'm glad that I did.

    You are a strong and amazing person and your outlook on life is both inspiring and humbling. Your story and experiences and the skill with which you write about them has an effect on the reader that is difficult to put into words.

    It was awe-inspiring. The degree of transparency with which you wrote this post allowed for your emotions and thoughts to bleed through. From there, they simply reach out and touch the reader's soul and mind.

    It is unfortunate that you have had to go through so much since your accident to learn what you learned, while I and others can simply sit and reap the benefits.

    I learned a lot from your post and you likely changed my perspective on life as well.

    Thank you for your posts and for being who you are. For just being, even.

    Stay strong, man, and take care.
    Will keep you in my Du'as.

  8. Soooo, I am kinda afraid and embarrassed to admit this but I get kinda nervous around light skinned desi aunties. One day, we will change the perceptions of everyone in this world, esp. our older generation, Hammad. We'll all get through it together, iA! Party on your blawwwwg (esp. with all this anonymous LOVEEE). YAY!!! :)

    PS: You have far greater goals than walking to achieve in life. And you have already started to achieve many of them.

  9. Asslamu alaikum,

    Seriously Hammad, when I first heard of your story I was very affected by it. My family and I still pray for you til this day. I truly believe in miracles and I am sure inshAllah Allah will listen to all of the prayers that go out for you from people all over.

    Also, I did want to suggest you something, Im not sure how much you are into alternative medicine, but there is a woman, she is chinese who practices chinese pressure point massage---its been in her husbands family for over 500 years. I know her personally. She has helped all types of patients, even those disabled after strokes and car accidents. Her treatments are a bit painful (i know from experience) but this woman definitely knows what she is doing. Her husband actually specializes in paralyzed patients (hes usually in china) but he has taught her as well.

    Her name is Susan Bai or "Suzy" --- her number is 484-682-9898. I really urge you to speak to her and give it a chance---Her english is very very broken and has trouble understanding sometimes but if you tell her what happened in lamens terms she'll understand. If you do speak to her, tell her Aisha told u about her.

    I truly wish the best for you and your family. May Allah grant you shifa. Ameen.

  10. It has been three years now since you've also started chronicling the things that have happened to you in this blog. Yet the posts that you've made one, two or three years ago still ring true—the journey you've undertaken is very much amazing and still inspiring. And you're right, that no matter what you tell us, we can never truly feel what it is like to be with you. There are many aspects to deal with in the aftermath of an accident, such as legal proceedings for one. I hope you've had a relatively easier time dealing with it, and any personal injury claims you've made have been met.

    Mastrangelo Law Offices

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  12. Thank you so, so much, everyone. I cannot explain in words how reading everyone's kind words has affected me.