Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has- M.M.
Monday, February 28, 2011
The Girl Who Smiled
The 17-year-old girl smiled as I walked into her brightly multi-colored room two weeks ago.
“When I heard you were coming I was happy,” Taylor said.
Her face had turned three shades darker than her complexion. Her cheeks were dotted with dark pimples. Her eyes were yellow. The quiet and shy girl wore a simple blue dress with a long-sleeved white shirt and white pants. She wore a bluehijab, or a headscarf.
Suddenly she got up, unplugged the chords from the wall that held tubes of saline, and slowly crept off the hospital bed. She had to use the restroom. She reappeared with a curious face when the doctor came to tell us of her diagnosis.
The doctor’s hair was short, and she spoke rapidly. Her eyes darted from one person to the other in the hospital room. There were six of us. The doctor, my parents, Taylor, her mother and I. My mother was the translator and my father and I had gone to visit.
The doctor began explaining Taylor’s illness...If Taylor received a cut it would take longer to heal than a normal person, she said.
“What does that mean?,” my mother and I wanted to know.
“It is liver failure,” the doctor said. “We are not sure what will happen. If her liver is stable we may be able to treat her as an outpatient.”
My mother and I asked her what would happen if she didn’t get better?
In worse case situation she may need a liver transplant, said the doctor, but she didn’t want to speculate. There were more blood tests to be done, and Vitamin K to be taken.
We hoped for the best.
My mother looked at me. I looked at her. “You tell them,” she said to me, indicating to Taylor and her mother who were waiting for the news. I recycled the information in my mind. I wanted to comfort the ill without lying. All we knew for certain was the liver failure.
It’s nothing…I began. She is just sick and her liver isn’t working as well as it is supposed to, I said. My eyes roamed the room and fell onto Taylor’s mother. They will keep an eye on her, make sure she’s eating healthy and continue doing blood work. Let’s pray for the best and be patient, I said.
Taylor’s mother’s face became tight. She wasn’t doing well.“I’m trying to keep it together,” she said, for her sake. My daughter (Taylor's oldest sister) called me. She kept telling me to smile and comfort Taylor. But it is hard, she said.
“When I got home the other night I saw my other two daughters waiting for news at home. Their faces were grief-stricken. I thought to myself, who should I please? Here I have one daughter in the hospital and two daughters at home longing for their sister. To whom should I show a happy face to and where do I go with my sorrow?,” Taylor’s mother said.
Taylor came to the U.S. about nine months ago. She is a soft-spoken person who tends to herself. She comes from a well-off family in Asia, however she is modest in her speech and her style. I have never heard her say anything bad about anyone - except to say such-and-such action is disliked in Islam and by God.
Rather than worry about others, she worries about herself, something we all struggle with.
The last time I saw Taylor before she became ill was at our house, while we discussed techniques on time management, having patience, and ways to strengthen concentration in prayer. As far as I can remember, she has always been eager to attendhaliqas,gatherings where God is mentioned, (like Sunday classes or bible study).
She is also a favorite in her high school classes, where she has been helping classmates learn the English language. She is building on her vocabulary.
Last Thursday my family (cousins and parents) and I visited Taylor. Her name was hung from a large window where the sunlight seeped into the room. A spring-colored curtain hid her from view. She had been transferred to a special hospital where doctors could monitor her liver and keep a close watch on her.
Doctors had worried she might need a transplant, however her condition was slowly improving that day. She was able to eat solid foods again.
She wore a bright pink hijab, or a headscarf, and she smiled widely when she saw us. My mom handed her a bouquet of flowers.
“Thank you so much,” Taylor said.
There were almost a dozen people in the room. Researchers asked her questions about her health, while a nurse was took several tubes of blood. A social worker stopped in to tell us her insurance was finally approved.
Alhamdulillah, thanks be to God, my father said. We should be thankful for the favors God has given us.
She smiled at the nurse, "Thank you so much," she said as her arms stretched out in a half-hug and handshake.
We all went home.
The next day Taylor stopped answering her phone. Her liver was failing. One more time.
She needed a liver transplant.
Taylor's father, who had just returned from the hospital after nearly a week with his daughter, pleaded to know what would happen next? Was there a donor? Was her name on the list? When would the surgery take place?
They didn't know. Taylor was struggling. She was fighting for her life. We supplicated. The family asked others to do the same.
God says in the Quran, "To Him We Belong and to Him We Shall Return," something Muslims say to people when they are in troubled times, or when people pass away.
The clock ticked. Everyone was getting anxious.
And then this morning a call came from the hospital. A donor has been found. Surgery will take place in a few hours God-Willing.
Moments ago her parents and siblings went to visit her. "I am so happy to see you," she said, tending to herself. What she does best.
(Edit: The names of people in this story were changed for privacy.)