A high pitched scream erupted from my mother’s mouth. The color draining from her skin, the fear on her face palpable, as I crumpled to the ground. My legs gave way walking down a few steps outside my aunt’s home in Seattle. We had just been in the United States a few days now.
Through the hazy tears of my eyes, I could see my father rushing to me, lifting me up and cradling me in his arms, then my world went black.
The next thing I remember, waking up lying on a hospital bed. Mind numbing screams drowning out the voices of the doctors and nurses. But this time, those agonizing sounds, like a wounded animal, coming from my little mouth. I was clinging to my father’s arm, the forever protector. Looking up at his face, my eyes begging for him to get the doctor’s to stop.
I wasn’t screaming because it was painful, I was screaming because I couldn’t feel anything. My legs were completely numb. My eyes popping out in horror as I took in the bright glint of silver as doctors put large needles through my knees.
My father, wiping away the dampness on my forehead and using his strong, calm voice to try and soothe me. But, I couldn’t stop, a steady flow of tears now also dampened my three year old face. Even as a child, my mind somehow grasped the gravity of the situation. If I couldn’t feel anything, would that mean I could not walk again?
To this day, I do not know how long I laid in that bed or how long I was in the hospital.
As, I shared in an earlier blog, my father came to this country with only $24.00 dollars, even spending a few of those precious dollars on food for me during a stop in Tokyo.
So, how in the world were they going to pay for this hospital bill? We had no insurance and my dad did not have a job. My beautiful mother was extremely intelligent, having graduated with honors in sociology. She was learning English and with two little girls and another baby on the way, there was no expectation for her to work.
I would learn years later, it took my parents years to pay off those medical bills. I would also continue to have challenges walking for years to come. I had to wear a leg brace and corrective shoes. I wear a lot of dresses for my work as a television journalist, but I am still so embarrassed over my knees. They are so bruised, permanent reminders of all my horrible falls as I tried to master walking.
The walking challenges appeared to be a side effect from my illness. As I shared in an earlier blog, my parents moved to this country because I was so sick. Doctors told them my body could not withstand the environment and if I stayed, they were sure I would not make it long past my next birthday.
After leaving the hospital, we returned to my aunt’s house. A modest small home in Seattle. It was a tight squeeze. She and her husband had two sons, one my age and another three month old baby.
It would soon get even more crowded, my mom was seven months pregnant.
My mother was feeling extremely guilty at this point, because she felt like a burden to her younger sister. My sweet aunt, Ismath Ahmed and her husband Iqbal did not feel that way at all. They were there ready to help.
As I continue to share my journey, you will learn how Ismath, and her infant child, my cousin Yaqub Ahmed, play a pivotal role in my life story.
My aunt told me, besides the challenges over walking, I started getting better. Color was returning to my face, I was gaining weight. My favorite food still seemed to be oranges. I was actually able to keep a whole one down along with white rice.
I was getting used to the environment, especially the weather but because I was still frail and my parents feared I would fall, I did not go outside very much. Shala would be the one to tell me about how cold it was and how fun it was to play with the cousins but I was so happy, I felt so much love around me. Like, any other child, I could not be expected to grasp the gravity of the current situation.
Time was beginning to run out. My father did not have a job, he had to feed his wife and two kids. He also had to get medical insurance before my mother delivered her third baby.
Little did I know, in just two months, my heart would implode with such powerful emotion. The feelings so strong, that for years, I forced myself to shut it out, just so I could survive.