On Friday, April 17, 2020, one week before Ramadan, I was doing my Arabic class via zoom and began to feel short of breath followed by pain on my left side. At first, I thought maybe I pulled a muscle or something, but it started to become more and more intense and I knew immediately this was something more serious. I ran to my wife and informed her of what was happening so she drove me to Urgent Care. They did an X-ray and discovered that part of my left lung had collapsed and that I needed to get to the ER. They also said it was not related to Covid-19, which was a relief. They called an ambulance and I headed to the hospital.
After arrival at the hospital, they studied my X-ray and said I was suffering from pneumothorax, when air leaks into the space between the lung and chest wall. This air pushes on the outside of your lung and makes it collapse. Since I had no history of lung disease, they said my case in particular was that of primary spontaneous pneumothorax (PSP), when it occurs without an apparent cause and in the absence of significant lung disease. Apparently, it could happen to tall and thin males without any reason. They have no idea why it happens to some people who do not have history of lung disease or physical trauma. They inserted a tube in my chest to get the excess air out in hopes of the lung expanding back on its own and healing itself, which is possible and usually the first procedure to treat it. However, after spending 3 days in the hospital with the tube, they said the pneumothorax seems to be increasing not decreasing and that I would need to go into surgery. At this point, I was very much in pain and breathing was difficult. Just a few days earlier, I was fine and now could hardly walk or move.
As you can imagine, this was all very overwhelming and emotional for my family and myself especially because no one (not even family) was allowed to visit due to Covid-19 fears. It was scary because I didn’t know what to expect or how much worst/better is this going to get. You cannot help but think about your demise and thoughts of ‘is this how it ends for me’ come across your mind. In that weak state, I realized something. The only things that truly matter are God, family, and good friends. Everything else is just noise and distraction. This is all you need to be happy. Nothing else really mattered to me in that moment. I didn’t think about anything else except these three things. All other issues/debates/concerns just went away.
I began to think what this would mean if this truly is the end for me. I felt sad for my wife, who may have to raise our daughter alone without me being there to help her through all the challenges of raising a child. I felt sad thinking about my daughter and how she may grow up without a father. I felt sad thinking about my parents and other family members who would be greatly effected by my loss. I thought about my friends, who would miss my presence. Most importantly, I thought about how I would be received in the afterlife. Have I done enough to even mean anything? All the religious stuff that I have done, have I done it to boost my own ego or for God? I thought about all my shortcomings and how I wish to have more time to correct them. In that moment, no sophisticated intra-theological debates mattered or held any importance, all I wanted was a copy of a Quran holding it tightly against my chest to show Him that I may not be living up to its standard, but I love it so much and believe in every word of it with all my heart and how I wish I could live by it with every strand of my heart, and hoping this would suffice as a means of Him engulfing me in His infinite mercy after my departure from this world.
After much du’a from everyone, the surgery was successfuly completed and they said things looked good and now I just needed to heal and recover. I spent about a week at the hospital and returned home on the first day of Ramadan. Unfortunately, I am unable to fast due to medication needed for post surgery and weakness. I am hoping that I can be healthy enough the last week of Ramadan to catch at least some of the last 10 days. I have a follow up after 2 weeks to assure everything is ok so insha’Allah I am optimistic the results will be good.
This experience has given me new perspective on life and a renewed vision of how I want to spend my life:
- Spending more time with and around family and friends. Life is too short. Don’t waste it away from them
- Indulging in more good deeds in preparation for the meeting with my Lord. I want to leave traces of small good deeds behind as much as possible so that they become a channel through which sadaqat al-jariyah (continuous charity) is earned that is constantly beneficial to me even after death. The only currency that matters after death is faith and good deeds. The most important aspect of this is how to integrate a strong faith into my daughter (and any future kids) so that they become a major avenue for continuous charity after death. This is something the Prophet (pbuh) emphasized
- Decrease distractions so they don’t take up so much of my life. We are surrounded by so many distractions which waste our lives. This is spiritually and mentally unhealthy. I plan to spend far less time (ideally no time) debating people trying to convince them of things. I have better things to do with my life. I rather spend more time learning and doing things that will bring benefit to me in this life and the afterlife. I would specifically like to spend more time understanding the Book of Allah, His last message to us. I also plan to lower my presence on social media. It’s a huge distraction full of meaningless entertainment, discussions, and debates most of the time
- Don’t take basic blessings for granted. The amount of favors Allah has on us are so immense that we often only realize their worth once they’re taken away. I am so grateful now for the mere blessing of breathing without difficulty. When Allah mentions that He has innumerable favors over us, He is NOT kidding
- Those who are sick, then reach out to them directly either via person, text or call. It makes a huge difference! It fills the person with joy and appreciation. Don’t just support them via a “congregational ameen” in a group chat, that’s just lazy
This pretty much wraps up my thoughts on this experience.
I’d like to thank everyone who reached out to me, made du’a, and our numerous family and friends who sent so much food to our house (and continue to do so) that we don’t need to cook for a month! May Allah reward to all of you!