For the apple of my eye

Published: July 3, 2014

He was a beautiful baby, my little miracle when I least expected it. PHOTO: AFP

On August 22, 2013, I was blessed with a healthy baby boy, Yahya Waqas. He was perfect in every sense of the word. The apple of my eye, the joy of my life, everything I could ever dream of. He was a beautiful baby, my little miracle when I least expected it. He made our family complete.

The three of us, he, my husband and I, were totally inseparable. We laughed with him, played with him, even danced with him. He was a feisty young boy and it was during my pregnancy that I fell unconditionally in love with him and I knew that from that day forward, I would be a completely different person.

Yahya Waqas. Photo: Amel Abid

But he passed away on March 19, 2014.

Yahya was diagnosed with Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return (TAPVR), a rare complex heart disease that affects one in a thousand babies. I was shocked, hurt and disoriented to say the least. He was a normal child with unbelievable reflexes. He knew what he wanted and when he wanted it. He knew how to demand things. He knew that he was loved and cared for.

We took him to the best hospital in Rawalpindi and what we believed to be the best cardiac facility in Pakistan. Little did we know that we were putting our baby in hands of the most incompetent doctors and staff. The doctor refused to perform surgery until he was at least six months old. They believed he weighed less and needed to gain more weight to be fit for the surgery. But the doctors at Fortis Escorts Heart Institute in India advised otherwise and deemed the procedure necessary before three months of age.

The sad part is that we were too late. He was already in the ICU when we found out about Dr Rajesh Sharma, and moving Yahya in his prevailing predicament was impossible.

During those six months my family went through hell. From heart medicines to vomiting to choking, we saw what I would not even wish upon the worst of my enemies. We saw our Yahya in pain. He caught pneumonia twice during those six months. He was hospitalised twice. His pneumonia wasn’t the cause of his death though. He caught another virus during our stay at the hospital while he was in the ICU and on a ventilator. He underwent Laparotomy, a surgical procedure for the abdomen, and was diagnosed with intestinal ischemia, which caused gangrene in his intestines.

We were told that he probably won’t even survive the procedure because of his continuing pneumonia and his heart condition, but my son did survive. The procedure was successful but he just couldn’t take it anymore and died of multiple organ failure after 12 days of surgery.

We saw him struggling for his breath. We saw him when he was being poked with needles again and again. I was there when he couldn’t recognise me anymore, when he passed bloody stools. I was there all along. I couldn’t hold him in my arms and I couldn’t stop his pain. I could see my husband falling apart, I saw the pain my family was going through but I knew one thing at the end, my son was a fighter.

Born in an army family, he was tough as a rock. He would have made an excellent soldier one day but Allah had other plans. He is among angels now. I miss him every second of every day. I miss his face, his eyes, his laughter, his cries, I miss it all.

I don’t have regrets but I wish I had known better at the time. I wish I had taken him abroad for his surgery. I wish I had researched a bit more and instead of putting him in an unhygienic paediatrics ward here in Pakistan, I wish I had taken him to the best doctors abroad. Either we don’t have the technology to perform such procedures on infants or the doctors here just do not have the confidence or competence it requires.

The heartless barbarians we call doctors here in Pakistan do not care if your child is sick or even if he dies at their hands. Except for maybe one or two humble doctors I met during my stay at the hospital, every other individual, be it a doctor or a nurse, is cruel, heartless and ignorant. This for me at least is a lesson well learnt and one that I can never erase from my memory.

This should be a lesson for every mother and every father struggling with the health of their children. Every infant with a congenital heart disease here in Pakistan is at risk. I’ve seen how a small disease can spread and turn into something entirely different just because of lack of proper hygiene and negligence. Save your children while you still can and while there is still a chance.

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Amel Abid

Amel Abid

An engineer working for a multinational minerals company in Islamabad. Her husband is an Army Officer and she belongs to an army family.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.