Sunday, 25 August 2013

Shot in the Head

A dear sister recalls a horrifying experience:

     I had been on vacation for two and a half months in Jordan. My mother and brother came to join me at the ‘two month mark’. Jordan, as you can imagine, is very different compared to Canada, but I adapted willingly and easily. I was meeting a lot of people in my family; my cousins, uncles, grandparents, my parent’s cousins, my second cousins, my Grandparent’s brothers and sisters and the list goes on. The weather was perfect, the food was my favorite, the activities and outings were fun and I was having a blast. My eight year old brother, Khalid was meeting family for the first time and he too was having a lot of fun. He told me he really liked my uncles, and that they were just like Dad. My Grandpa and my brother also really love gardening and they bonded over planting a few trees and flowers. Everything was going perfectly Alhamdu Le Allah. 

     One night, I thought to myself ‘I have learned to be grateful for everything and I am very happy, but the question is, would I still be grateful and happy if everything around me was going wrong? Would I be strong enough?’ I prayed to be blessed with such a strength. I promised myself that I would still be just as happy and just as grateful in any situation. I prayed to God that He would help me fulfill this promise.

      I then thought of a family I knew, the father had had a heart attack and everyone had panicked except his son. I have always admired the ability to remain calm in tough situations, it’s an ability I have always been desperate to have. I’ve always thought, ‘I know I can be like him. I know I am strong enough to remain calm while everyone is panicking.’ But I reminded myself that these were just words and that I couldn’t know for sure until the opportunity came to prove it. That ‘opportunity’ however would come at the cost of a loved one’s health, and I began to have doubts if I could ever be that strong. 

     The next night, I was sitting with Khalid at the table along with my two cousins, Jawad, ten years old, and Dana, seven years old. Khalto Shereen, their mother was standing by the table, while little Hannah, three years old was running around. We were in my grandpa’s garden right next to the door to the living room where my Grandma and Mom were sitting and talking. My uncle had been sitting with us but had left to his room once he had finished eating. 

     I had gone to the Roman Amph theater that day, a tourist attraction that was dated over two thousand years old. I had walked all day in the heat and I was happy to now be in a light t-shirt and jeans, enjoying the cool Jordanian weather at night. I was drinking a can of pepsi and Khalid was saying that he would ‘tell on me to Mom, because I was drinking too much’. I pretended to be scared. We laughed. We were having a good time. I remember my aunt saying, ‘Dana, feed your sister a few spoons from your plate. She’s making such a big fuss’. Khalid and I exchanged looks and laughed. Hannah really was making such a big fuss. Then there was a sudden sound. 


     What was that sound? It was loud. We all looked around. Khalid looked at me with surprise. A large leaf fell to the ground, Khalid and I watched it fall. Khalid looked back at me.
‘What was that?’ he asked.
   I shrugged. 
‘Who cares Khalid’ I answered. Kids wonder at mysterious noises in the cutest way, I thought.

   Khalid still looked at me very alarmed. 
‘Whatever Khalid.’ I said.

   But then I saw his eyes shift from surprise to pain and then from fear. The look alone made my heart drop. Then suddenly he started to SCREAM. He screamed from the back of his throat. It communicated pain, lots of it. 
‘WHAT? KHALID! WHAT IS IT? Bismillah, bismillah! What is it khalid!’ I was now on my feet, horrified.

     Blood started pouring. What was happening?! Khalid tried to stand, he fell. He wet his pants. Everyone screamed. Little Hannah shrieked, all the blood and screaming scared her. I thought to myself, if Khalid wasn’t bleeding so badly, I would have gone to comfort her. I stood over my brother in a panic. My mind was hyperactive. Then something clicked in my head. I remembered my promise. I remembered the son who didn’t panic. 

     This is a test. Do what you have to to pass it. 

‘Tissues! Tissues! I know what to do’ I yelled. Oh God, please help me remember everything I learned from CPR and first aid. 

     My Mom came running. She had heard the unnatural screaming. The maid ran over to help, bringing the tissues along with her. I pressed the tissues onto the right side of his head. The blood instantly leaked through. My heart pounded painfully, ‘but... these are a thick bunch of tissues, how were they used up so fast?’. I heard his screaming, saw that he had wet his pants, saw the unnatural amount of blood. Had a rock fallen from the upstairs apartments? All this from a rock? Something didn’t add up. 

     We called for my uncle, he came rushing out with his car keys. His eyes scanned the situation.
‘To the hospital. Now!’

     My mother took khalid’s arms, my uncle tried to help carry him. Khalid was pushing and screaming and it was really hard to help him. I need to go with them, I thought. My Mom was absolutely going crazy, I knew I could handle the situation better, and I’m the only one who knows CPR (what if something happens on the way?). I looked down at my clothes, I was in jeans and a t-shirt! This wont do. I rushed and put some prayer clothes on and then ran to catch up to my Mom and brother.

     I went in the car first. Khalid came in and I put his head on my chest, pressing on the wound and praying to God He would help us through this. My Mom came in last and my uncle drove to the nearest hospital. He didn’t live in Jordan and I prayed that he would know the way to the nearest hospital. Half a minute went passed and we reached our destination. Thank God there was a hospital near our house!

‘What happened?’ They asked as they brought a wheelchair to our car. ‘Did he fall? Was he fighting with another kid?’

     I didn’t know what to tell them. He was sitting and laughing, next thing you know he’s screaming and blood is pouring from his head. What was I supposed to say? I told them all that had happened. They kept asking the same question. They didn’t seem to believe me.
‘I saw the whole thing happen! We were talking! We were sitting! I was sitting with him and our cousins, and then we heard a ‘tick’ sound and then he started to scream.’ I heard the craziness of my story. Who starts bleeding after a tick sound?

‘But did he fall or anything?’ 
‘No! I’m telling you, we were sitting’
‘Maybe he was fighting with his cousins?’
‘NO! They’re well mannered kids, I was with them!’

     I was really getting frustrated. What was going on! We went inside. Khalid was trying to stand up. I tried to calm him down. They purified his wound with alcohol and he went wild. He kicked, punched and screamed. I noticed then that his wound looked odd...The skin around the injury was arched shaped. A fallen rock doesn’t scratch the skull in that way...

‘We are going to take an x-ray’: one of them said.

     What? Are they serious. Maybe it’s just a procedure kind of thing. They wont find anything...I don’t think? They took him to the room.

‘You can’t come in here’, they said.

     We waited outside. My Mom couldn’t sit down. She walked back and forth around the room frantically.

‘I have a bad feeling about this’, she kept saying.

     This scared me, mothers have good instincts. What about all that blood? It was just so unnatural. We waited. 

‘Mom, just keep praying that Khalid will be fine. Insa’Allah he will be fine.’ I kept telling her. She wasn’t really listening, her mind was lost to panic. ‘Mom, just say Alhamdu Le Allah for everything.

The results came. There was a bullet in Khalid’s head. 

     What? But I was there! I hadn’t even heard the sound of a gun shot. How was this happening?! My Mom started crying hysterically. 

‘Mom, Mom, it’s just the word “bullet” that sounds scary, it’s not really that scary. Think of it like a rock. A rock fell and hit his head.’ At this point, I was still unwilling to believe that the bullet had come from a gun. Maybe one of those plastic bullets had fallen from the upstairs apartments? With the speed it had gathered by falling...maybe it had hit him and was now just under his skull?

     We then went to see the x-ray. My heart dropped. The thing -the bullet!- was in the middle of his head, behind his right eye! My Mom ran out of the room and fell on the ground.

‘He’s going to be fine insha’Allah’ the people from the x-ray said.

 I didn’t have a chance to react, I had to go comfort my Mom.

‘I’m calling your Dad! I can’t do this on my own!’

     I took the phone from her. There was no way she was going to call him and break the news to him in this state.

‘I’m calling him Mom,’I said.

     She gave me the phone without hesitation. I called. Busy. I called again. Busy. I planned how I would tell him the news. He couldn’t have the news suddenly, that I knew. We, ourselves had taken him to the hospital and that had given us time to absorb the situation. Telling my dad, ‘there’s a bullet in your son’s head’ the moment he picks up definitely wont do. I had a plan. 

‘Dad it’s urgent’ I texted.
Dad called.
‘As Salam alykum’
‘Wa Alykum As Salam. Dad, I have news. It will take me a minute to explain. I need you to listen carefully. Everything is fine, so I need you to remember that there will be good news once I finish.
‘Allahuma Aj’aluha Khair, Bismillah Rahman Arahem, what is it?’
      I told him everything step by step, as it happened. I used short sentences, pausing at the end of each sentence, my voice calm and serious.
‘We were sitting in Grandpa’s garden. Khalid started to scream. We thought a rock had fallen from the upstairs apartments. We took him to the hospital. They took an x-ray. It turns out, it wasn’t a rock, it’s a bullet.’
     There was a moment of silence. I gave him a moment to take in the information and then hurried to give him the good news.
‘He’s going to be fine insha’Allah. Everyone who did the x-ray says Khalid insha’Allah will be ok’  
‘What....? How did this happen?’ My Dad asked.
‘I don’t know. I think someone shot a bullet in the air and it hit Khalid.’
‘La hawla wala kawata ela bel Allah’
‘Listen Dad, Mom is panicking. She will scare you once I give her the phone. Khalid is going to be fine insha’Allah, so don’t let her panic worry you too much.’

     I gave the phone to my Mom and kept track of what she said. I made sure she didn’t go overboard with expressing her fear...after all, by Dad was in Canada, on the other side of the world, this type of news would hit him harder.

     My Mom then called her brother. What she told him, I don’t know because it was Khalid’s turn to be comforted. They were now laying Khalid down on one of those hospital beds. They were going to move him to the emergency room. He was very scared, but his level of consciousness relieved me.

     Soon they went into the elevator and the doors closed. I was now left to take care of my Mom. My Mom’s brother then came. 
‘What happened? Did you called the police?’ were his questions.
     We went upstairs to the waiting room of the emergency section of the hospital. I noted that this hospital was very simple, and wasn’t meant to handle these types of situations. I helped my Mom sit down and put my hand on her back, rubbing her back soothingly. I told her a millions things right then, a million things that I will now share with you.

‘Don’t worry Mom. God is here. He is here. He is watching us, He sees our pain and tears. He is here to help. All we need to do is ask Him.

‘Mom, God isn’t trying to hurt us. We think this is a bad thing, but one day we will say Alhamdu le Allah that it happened. One day we will be grateful for this, so let’s not delay our gratefulness until we have a reason to be, and just be grateful to God now, trusting that He will soon give us a reason to be.

‘Remember the time Dad lost his job when you were seven months pregnant with Khalid? Remember when we all thought it was the worst possible thing to happen at that time? But then Dad got a much better job with higher pay five months later. That job eventually opened up opportunities for better jobs. What do we say now? We say Alhamdu Le Allah, not just for the job but also because Dad got five months to take care of you and Khalid. Nothing could have been better. This is exactly like that time, but we don’t know it yet, so don’t be so scared. This is a good thing.

‘Mom, remember that God says ‘no soul is burdened more than it can bare. You can handle this. You can handle this. I can handle this. Dad can handle this. Khalid can handle this.

‘Mom, remember that God promises “after hardship is ease”. Ease will come, so just be patient. You are now dealing with shock. As a mother, you are worried for your child, but this will pass, and soon this will all be behind you.

‘Mom, you should know that even in the worst situations, so long as you are grateful and thankful to God, you are the happiest person on earth. This isn’t the end of everything. Say Alhamdu Le Allah, and we as a family will live happily. So whatever happens to Khalid -death, disability, anything, - our first reaction should and will be Alhamdu Le Allah.

‘Mom, this is a blessing. God doesn’t hurt, he helps. Just say Alhamdu Le Allah. God want’s to bring us closer to Him. He wants us to ask Him for help. He wants us to become better people. Isn’t that the greatest blessing? 

‘This is a reminder, a check up, a test. These type of things bring out what is truly in our hearts. Make sure you pass this test. Say Alhamdu Le Allah. Pass this test by saying ‘Alhamdu Le Allah, I am happy with whatever You give me’.

Mom, look at us. We are so lucky. Look at all the people in Syria, Egypt, Gaza and the many other places in the world. They drag unconscious bodies to the hospitals and the hospitals are full. No one has time to help them, imagine! Look at us now, in a nice hospital with many willing nurses to help us. Look at how we are surrounded by family all here to comfort us. God has made it easier for us.
‘Mom this is written. It was meant to happen. Say Alhamdu Le Allah that it happened in Jordan while we are surrounded by family. Who would have been there for us in Canada? There are over fifty people here with us in the waiting room. In Canada there would’ve probably been, what? two...three? God has made it easier on us.

‘Mom, remember that the Doctors said Khalid is going to be fine Insha’Allah. Mash’Allah Khalid has always had good health, and he’s young, his body can handle it insha’Allah. Imagine if it had happened to Grandpa, he wouldn’t be able to recover as well as Khalid inshAllah will. Once again, God has made it easier on us.

‘Mom, remember that what has happened, happened. We can’t go back in time and change things. You want to go back in time? You can’t. So let’s just deal with the consequences in the only way we know how...and that is to pray.

‘Mom, this is just shock. It happened so fast and when we rushed to the hospital, we didn’t even know what was wrong with him. But now we know everything, so let’s calm down. Mom, I get it, you’re feeling this way because you are the mother, but look around at everyone else. They are all calm and relieved at the good news the Doctors shared with us. They’re not as worried because they can think straight. Just calm down. You can stop these sad thoughts that you keep thinking. You have to power to calm down, so use it.

‘Mom, when you think, ‘I wish this never happened!’ Remember that God’s wisdom is great and one day we will be thankful this happened, so it’s a good thing it happened. When you think, ‘But we were having so much fun in Jordan. I wish it happened later.’ Remember that it’s a good thing it happened in Jordan while we are surrounded by family. When you think, ‘I can’t handle the thought of him having so much pain’ Remember that this was written. It’s Khalid’s fate, if not a bullet, an accident in the kitchen, an accident at school, anything. It is what it is. Besides, it might have been worse, but God has made it easier on us.

     These were the things I told my Mom. I was comforted as I comforted her. Family and friends crowded the waiting room, some comforting us...some wanting to be comforted. I did my best in this situation to help everyone out. It was an odd feeling because I had always wanted to prove to myself that I could handle something like this, but I had never known how successful I would be. God had helped me stay strong.

     Then after a few hours, a thought kept repeating itself in my mind. I’ve been comforting people for hours, when is it my turn to be comforted? The ‘tick’ sound of the bullet, which turned out to be the sound of the bullet breaking through Khalid’s skull, haunted me. I kept seeing Khalid’s eyes looking into my eyes, looking at me with pain and fear. I kept hearing that horrible screaming. When will it be my turn to be comforted, I thought.

      At this point, I had asked my uncle to drive me home so I could change into something better. There was blood all over my prayer clothes and I had only worn the ‘upper’ part, and it wasn’t all that covering. We went home and I changed. Once properly dressed, I remembered the nagging thought I constantly had in the hospital. It was midnight and I still hadn’t even prayed dhur! Quickly, I made wudu and made the intention to make up for these prayers. I prayed Dhur with a heavy heart. Then a sudden thought came to me.

      I am closest to God when I am in prayer. I have been asking for someone to comfort me this whole time, and never once did I think I could ask God to comfort me.

     I prayed Asr. God, please comfort me, I prayed. Tears filled my eyes but I was still not all that comforted. I prayed Magrib. God, please comfort me, please comfort me. I started to feel lighter.  I prayed Isha. God, please comfort me. My heart rate began to slow down, my breathing calmed. My muscles weren’t so tense, I relaxed them. I felt the physical effects immediately. I finished praying. 

     My mind wasn’t so hyperactive anymore, my thoughts slowed to a normal pace. I noticed that my positivity in this situation came a lot more naturally. Emotionally, I felt a new type of calmness I had never felt before, a level I had never reached before. Never in my life have I been so calm before. This, I was surprised at. I am a person who values calmness, I enjoy being calm on a daily bases and I choose to be friends with ‘calm’ people. How have I never reached such a level before? Especially given the situation I am currently in. The answer is obvious. The calmness God gives you is greater than any calmness you could produce by yourself. Subhan Allah, all I did was ask! 

     I then felt shame. I hadn’t prayed dhur until that moment. Why did I do this to myself? I had always been told, ‘you can die at any second’ but of course I have always only pictured car accidents, heart attacks at the age of fifty, falling off something...etc. Khalid was not dead, but he could have died, and he had just been sitting and laughing in the garden. Death, truly comes at any second. I reminded myself of the nasty feeling I had during the hospital, how I really regretted that I had delayed and missed four prayers. I shuddered at the idea of dying in such a state. I was really ashamed of myself. 

     I then channelled this shame to motivating. I will take this as a reminder from God to always pray my prayers on time. After all, I’ve seen it with my own eyes how laughter can turn into screams within seconds. I could die now. The message was clear, and I was determined to act on it, this I promised myself. Could I use the reminder that God gave me to remind others? Yes, I realized, the answer is yes.

    Yesterday’s thoughts then came to mind. I had asked myself, ‘would I be strong enough to still be happy and grateful in the worst situations?’ I had proved the answer was yes. I had prayed to God to give me such a strength and He gave it to me the next day. 

     A new thought then came to me. This opportunity had not just been to prove something, it had also been an opportunity for me to express to God how much I love Him, how much I believe in His word. WOW, I thought, what a beautiful opportunity! I had always thought my faith was weak in this point. I never thought I would remember God’s words so fast in such a situation. Subhan Allah, truly it is only God who knows the state of your heart even more than you do yourself. 

PS: [9 days after the incident] My brother is doing Alhamdu Le Allah. Doctors said the bullet entered hit the safest part of the brain. SubhanAllah, it really was a miracle. God is Great and capable of many things. Movement, hearing, sight, memory, everything Alhamdu Le Allah is functioning well. He is now out of the hospital. As for the bullet, it has been decided that it will remain where it is. SubhanAllah, God truly made it easy for us. Currently, Khalid is excited about all the presents and candy he got. He also wants to ‘talk to the prime minister and tell him how to run the Country’ which I find hilariously entertaining, but hey, maybe he’ll grow up and fix things. Alhamdu Le Allah for everything.