Give and Take: A COVID-19 Story

Updated: Jul 22

| This is the 528th story of Our Life Logs |


My life began in October 2000. I was born the youngest in a middle-class family in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan. My family was not wealthy, as my father was a government employee, but he saw my talent for academia and encouraged me to perform well in my studies so that I could one day have a successful career in medicine.

Receiving a certificate for securing the top marks in my fourth-grade class.

I worked hard, always maintaining excellent grades on my exams and sitting at the top of my class. After finishing the 12th standard with flying colors in 2018, it was time to continue the path that I had been studying so hard for. I registered for the Medical and Dental Colleges Admission Test (MDCAT). After months of preparing (which was another journey in and of itself!), I secured one of the 3400 seats for a public sector medical college. I began my schooling at my dream college, Quaid-e-Azam Medical College in Bahawalpur, in the fall of 2019. I felt like the luckiest guy in the world.

I moved to a hostel on campus, made great friends, and quickly blended into my new environment. When I went home to visit with my family on winter break, I was happy to see them, but the pangs of anxiety set in. I desperately wanted to return to my school and programs in February of 2020. It was around this time that the whispers of the coronavirus (COVID-19) circled our country, a virus that seemed serious, but distant.

As the weeks wore on, and I returned to school, the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared a global pandemic. COVID-19, the deadly virus originated in China, was now spreading across the world. Still, many in Pakistan weren’t concerned there were no cases in the country yet. They couldn’t see how the pandemic would affect them. And so, many of us lived the same despite knowing about the virus.

Just about a month later, the first case was reported in Pakistan. Our government became alert and acted, announcing a complete lockdown beginning on March 15th. With schools shutting down, I had to return to my hometown. Of course, I was frustrated. There I was, relishing in my dream life. I didn’t want to become isolated from my friends and college. But I had little choice. With all universities closed, my older siblings came home too, so we were all together under one roof.

Our home is in one of the safest places in Pakistan because it is a defense area called the “Pakistan Aeronautical Complex.” Access to leave or enter the town was restricted, so we thought we were safe—and for a while, we were. But due to the irresponsible behavior of some people who went out of the town to meet their friends, the virus came to our town and the case numbers rose.

As the situation worsened in our town, we all went into quarantine for 14 days. No one had permission to enter or leave the colony. As a family, we gathered all the necessary food and provisions to self-isolate. Personally, I made sure to get my favorite snacks, drinks, and biscuits because I knew passing the time without them would be maddening. That, and videogames. I was like many gamers, who had little issue isolating for days on end. I could just sit down and play some of my favorite games.

After the quarantine period, the government of Pakistan lifted the lockdown and allowed people to return to their lives. They determined that it was far too of a large number of workers in the country who could not afford to eat three times a day without working daily. The government soon discovered that was a mistake.

As a government employee, my father was deemed essential and continued going into work. Through another employee who had left town and returned, my father contracted COVID-19. His symptoms didn’t appear until about two weeks later. When he did show symptoms, he went to get tested and was confirmed positive.

By being in contact with an infected employee, my father unknowingly brought the virus home to the family. Living in such close quarters, it was inevitable that if one of the eight of us got infected, we all would be. After my father, I was the first to get infected. Then, one by one, we all got a positive report for coronavirus. The only exception was my mom. There were rumors that those with o-positive blood types were less likely to be infected, and she was one of the lucky ones with that blood type. As the only healthy one, my mom prayed and cared for us. Tensions were running high as fevers and coughs penetrated our home. We were all afraid that we wouldn’t recover and that we would be one of many who died from the nasty virus.

As the virus raked its way through our bodies, we were admitted to the hospital to separate rooms. Being away from my family and friends in total isolation in a hospital bed was awful and time seemed to crawl. Recovery can take about two weeks if the infection is mild, but it can exceed three to six weeks in serious patients. Luckily, everyone in my family recovered in two weeks—everyone except my elder sister.

Her condition was so serious that they had to put her on a ventilator. We all prayed for her day and night, but she wasn’t improving.

The doctors said that to help her, we ought to arrange a plasma infusion for her. Unfortunately, none of our family members have the same blood type as my sister. So, my family and I started reaching out to everyone we knew to see if anyone could donate plasma to help my sister. The only people who were willing to give asked a hefty price in return. And while we wanted to help my sister, we could not afford to buy plasma at the prices asked of us. We were helpless and could do nothing except pray.

In the midst of us looking for plasma for my sister, I began to get contacted for plasma donations for other Covid-19 recovered patients with my blood type. Seeing these requests, I realized that I was put in a special position and I needed to do whatever I could to help. Isn’t that what I asked for my sister? I may not have been able to donate to her, but I could donate to others. I willingly donated my plasma to everybody, and many successfully recovered. When families I helped wished to thank me, I asked in return that they pray for my sister’s recovery.

With time and lots of prayers, my sister became better gradually without plasma of any recovered patient. She successfully defeated Covid-19 after about one week on the ventilator. This made me believe that God helps those who help others and I was very grateful. I knew that in the future when I became a doctor, I had to embody this mindset. One must not live for themselves only. We must help and live for others.

Now all recovered, my family and I are back together in the same house. While I look forward to going back to school and back to normal, I am happy to have my family as company as we wait for the virus to leave our country. I am still donating blood plasma to anyone who contacts me, and I’ve encouraged my family members to do the same.

Becoming a doctor is a service of the people. Yet, it wasn’t until this virus that I discovered the true importance of it. Helping others is our duty, not our favor. And by helping others, we feel whole. I hope to keep this lesson close to my heart as I continue medical school and one day become a doctor, helping those who are in need.

This is the story of Wajeeh Ahmed

Wajeeh is a young boy who worked hard to get into his dream college only to have it put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. After returning to his family home, he tested positive for Covid-19 after his father unknowingly brought it home and spread it to the family. After his sister was in need of plasma but a donor couldn’t be found, Wajeeh started donating plasma to those with his blood type. This experience showed him how important it is to help others and how he believes God helps those who help others. The first person he would like to hug after the pandemic is over is his best friend who he hasn’t seen in almost four months. The first place he would like to visit is his college as he deeply misses college life. While he’s ready for things to go back to normal, he will miss the precious time he’s gotten to spend with his family.

This story first touched our hearts on June 18, 2020.

| Writer: Wajeeh Ahmed | Editor: Colleen Walker |

#COVID19 #coronavirus #giveblood #illness #lifeanddeath #family #quarantine #medicalfield #career #hospital #pandemic #isolation #Pakistan

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