As I have not written for a long time, please forgive me for my improper grammar and lack of good words. I just needed something or someone to express my words to, and I don’t quite have that.
My story begins when I was born in the humble city that is Montebello. I was 9 months old when it was found that I was born with a heart defect. When my grandmother held me in her arms that day, she already knew something was wrong with me. She asked the doctors to check me — and lo and behold, it was discovered that I was — well — sick. A “blue baby”, as I was called, I was born with Tetralogy of Fallot — “Tetra” meaning “Four”, therefore 4 problems having to do with my heart — all connecting with one main problem — something called the Ventricular Heart Defect. I was born with a “broken heart”, so to speak. However, it isn’t a sad story I’m about to tell – in fact, I always considered my heart problem to be my blessing in my life. I understood what it was like to be sick, and got exposure to the hospital often as a girl. I never despised cardiograms — for I found them fun and ticklish, and every time the nurse put on a new cold sticker on me, I giggled enough for the world. Echos were always of interest to me as well; it was only the times that I had to get MRIs that I despised going to the hospital. Once, it took 1 1/2 hours for them to complete one session, and even so, it was not complete. They told me that my heart beat was unnaturally slow (44 beats per minute), and that apparently the machine had shut down and I had to return.
As one would expect, after my first surgery as an infant, I had another surgery at the age of 16 years of age. I remember that year was full of hurt, especially for me. I felt alone in everything, and maybe I did not believe that I was going to live throughout the surgery. I remember my sister called me thirty minutes before the surgery — simply only to wish me good luck. In the end, it was only me and my family; no colleagues came, and I felt completely humiliated by this. One hour before my surgery — I could not take it – I snapped. I broke down completely and began to cry. I weeped so much I thought the amount of water coming from my eyes could help someone survive even the worst of droughts. Then a miracle happened.. I.. Lived.
In Islam, it is said that the belief system is if God gave us a test the first time and we had failed it — the same test will come up later in one’s life, and my guess is, it comes when the person is ready. At the age of 16, I also failed to meet good people in my life — one of which had a glass eye, and all he could do was pity himself. He always talked in suicide, and at some point keyed himself in the shower and had shown me and other colleagues his scars. He just let himself bleed in the shower. With the best of regards, we don’t communicate anymore. It was for the best.
At 17, I had major, major, major depression. I suppose this one friend affected me in greater ways than I had realized. I was suicidal, and always wondered why I was living and not others besides me. Why I had to suffer through so much pain. So food became.. my therapy. I had a friend that year tell me I looked pregnant, and I suppose that is how I began to think of myself as less worthy than others. I was 134 lbs and 5’0 tall. Too fat for anyone’s interest.
In that summer before I became a senior, I worked out a whole lot, and ate much less. I slimmed down to about 122 lbs. Good enough, I suppose. My senior year of high school, I was nothing but less than an ant. The depression worsened than ever before — to the point where it became unbearable. I didn’t do much with my life except sit and cry. Everyday, I wanted to leave and escape my house — but for some reason, something in my mind told me not to do it. So, I just tried every single day to listen to music — sometimes it would last for 4 hours in a day, and I would just listen and sit and cry. I also liked someone at the time — someone who had a girlfriend anyway. I always felt I could not be as good as him, so at some point I experimented with my diet — again. I ate 3 small oranges a day, for 1 week. I lost two lbs in that week, but I never went back and did it again. There were also other things that bothered me that year. As my sister and I shared a class together, her being one year younger than I, as fate should have it, we had a lovely teacher who amazes me every time she speaks. Her name was Ms. Salama. Ms. Salama was such a loving teacher for my heart that, one day when she had an incident I could not handle it. She was standing on the sidewalk one day and a man hit her face, destroying some of her teeth and a little of her lip. I could not help but cry over this woman — I cried for 3 days straight, from the amount of sadness I could see overwhelming her angelic face. After several months, this teacher that everyone revered so much was the object of being made of — something I could never forget of my classmates. I always had so much anger over this subject, and the classmates faces still make an imprint within my mind. Seeing people treat her — and others this way, just made me sink deeper into depression. I could not understand how anyone — much more, people my own age — could make such a mockery of her, and not only her but those around them.
Next, came my freshman year of college. In my freshman year of college, I suppose my goal was to become a better person — and what a journey it took to get there. First, I must admit I made many errors upon this path, so please, if you could, don’t make a judgement upon me. I met a boy — a boy named Sunny. Our first date consisted of us going to Starbucks, then we hung out (awkwardly), in his car. I don’t know what happened to me all of a suddenly — but the remembrance of my Lord came about. I remembered that it was not permissible for a boy and a girl to be alone together — as we believed the third person in between was Shaitan (Satan). I suddenly began to feel very sweaty and anxious being in his car, so I made an excuse to go — trying my best not to be impolite with him. Strangely, something happened. I went to sleep at midnight that night, and woke up 2 hours later. I could not comprehend it, and I cannot even explain it in words, but there was something — whether it was guilt, a bad dream, I don’t know. I did not trust it in this time, as I thought maybe I am just insane. Lo and behold however, we split within 2 weeks of being together from several arguments we began to have with one another. Next came the news that my doctor gave me. He told me that I am to have another surgery on my heart again, and it was necessary as the leakage in my heart was extremely bad and so was my murmur. When this news struck me, I said subhanallah (Exalted is He). The same test that had struck me 3 years before had come for me again. Before this however, I would like to talk about another boy I met shortly after Sunny. His name was something I cannot expose — but he is someone I loved dearly, with all my heart. The moment I met him, I was confident that everything was going to be okay. He was new, like me, and in the Vietnamese club just like me — the only two people in the club who could not speak Vietnamese. I suppose it was destiny, and I am always thankful for this day of my life. When I met him — my life changed. Everyday was not only for me to better myself, but to be able to prove to him I was a good woman and person inside, and it was easy since within 2 weeks of my life — I already loved him. Everyday, I prayed for this precious soul that was so near and dear to my heart — the boy who — I would argue, saved my soul. Someone who captured my heart with his humility. Not only did he take the bus from our school to his home (nearly a 2 hour ride), but some days he would be so tired from school and work, he would have to use a scooter to get home so he would not have to walk. At the same time, he didn’t capture only my heart– but the hearts of so many girls with him.
At the day of my surgery however, I remember the feeling so clearly. I was not afraid. In fact, I knew I was going to live somehow. The moment I walked into the surgery room, I saw my doctor and then we waited for the main surgeon to come in as well. They said he was the best in the entire country — and who did he turn out to be ? A Palestinian, Muslim doctor. A man of my own race, the best in the country. I felt secure in the doctor’s hands already, and this is when I truly knew — this is what I wanted to be when I grew up. He was my inspiration. I said to myself, when I grow up, I want to be just like this man — and one day, even to work with him side by side, to repay him for performing surgery on me and making me better — because, after this surgery came another miracle. The doctors did not tell me before they put me to sleep, but it was not looking good for me. In actuality, the leakage and murmur were extremely bad this time, but somehow this surgery not only healed the leakage completely – therefore meaning I would never require another surgery again, but also the fact that my murmur was now incredibly soft.
In this time, I suppose you can also say I was searching for my Lord. I always believed in God, I just was a little lost maybe. I believed in my religion heavily, and knew that it was the truth, (in my case of course), and wanted to know more. I always did like doing researches on my religion and so on, but it was more about conversion stories or sometimes a small lecture, never really listening to Quran much or so and occasionally I would also listen to religious music. As I fell in love more and more with this boy and the individuals around me, the more I loved my religion and was strong upon it. Later, I could say I was religious but still needed to learn more, I suppose one can say. I always tried to meet Muslims like myself, or at least, if not Muslim, at least Arab. I was never lucky in this my entire life, as I grew up in communities with solely Hispanic or solely Asian peoples. So, I tried and tried, but it always failed in some way or another — and I suppose I gave up for a bit of time.
Next, came my trip to Turkey and Jordan. I suppose, all I can say is that it was no less than a miracle of sorts. A dream. A blessing in disguise. The trip first began in Turkey. In Turkey, the amount of poverty that struck the country surprised me. I made it my promise – my absolute and final promise, that if I had become rich, there will be no way I will keep one child in Turkey begging. I realized this probably was a result of Bashar Al Assad’s armies. In Jordan however, I was only happy to see my grandmother. She was the only grandparent I had left, including both sides. My grandpa and grandmother died before my birth, and my grandfather died only two years ago. Allah yerhamhom. This was the main reason I was excited for this trip — for I loved my grandmother so much, and it had been 7 years since I had last seen her, much less my aunts and uncles from my mother’s side as well. All in all, though my Arabic needed lots of practice, I got to ask my grandmother so many questions – including how she met my grandfather. These small experiences in my life is what kept my heart full of love.. and most of all, Amal. Hope. I had too much of it at the time to be sad. Until now, I wish to return to these lovely, miraculous countries… but for now, I am studying to be a future cardiologist. Something I would have never discovered I wanted until I met my heart surgeon last year, actually. A Palestinian Muslim doctor being the best in the country ? I only hope that I can be half as amazing as him, and one day repay him by working by his side.