Fear and Hope: An Interview with the Mother of Aariz Atif

 


A precious child with his loving parents

New York: When the doctor told Shazia Quadri that God had blessed her with another son, the young mother prostrated in thanks for a healthy child.
Two months later, her whole world turned upside down when she found out that Aariz Atif, had hepatablastoma, a rare form of liver cancer. Doctors in Karachi said his only hope of survival was a liver transplant, not possible in Pakistan.
With the help and determination of her relatives in the US, Shazia, her husband Atif, and their children Hamza and Aariz were allowed to enter the US on human parole for Aariz’s treatment. As a foreigner, he was not entitled to any Medicaid and insurance companies refused to take his case.
As he underwent sessions and sessions of chemotherapy, with the help of family and strangers the required amount of $300,000 was raised towards the transplant.
Doctors at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh have said that 18-month-old baby Aariz who now has a full set of teeth and has started running is ready for his transplant.
As he awaits the day a liver will be available, his daily chemotherapy costs at Stonybrook Hospital in New York continue to increase. His current outstanding bill for his chemotherapy and other tests has now exceeded $200,000. An interview with his mother, Shazia gives a glimpse into his family’s trial.
Pakistan Link: How did you feel when Aariz was born?
Shazia Jahan Quadri: I was so happy so I prostrated to Allah for blessing me with another baby boy in good health. I was in pain because of a second c-section but it disappeared when I saw him. Everyone was very happy including my husband, and especially my two-year-old son Hamza. He was trying to touch his brother to feel his delicate skin and was asking where he came from.

PL: When and how did you discover the tumor?
SJQ: After a week we did his aqeeqah and everything was fine. Then his stomach became hard and we thought it was gas. After two weeks his stomach got bigger and harder. He got fever and we took him to a child specialist. The doctor became worried about his stomach but first gave him belly medications. Aariz got better but his stomach got harder and bigger. The doctor requested an ultrasound. Aariz was two months old. The report said that some big mass was present which could be hepatoblastoma. A Cat Scan further confirmed an hepatoblastoma, a rare childhood liver cancer that affects less than a million children every year. The tumor was large and reached into his pelvis.
It was April 10th, 2006 when we learned about his tumor and the whole world turned upside down. I felt dead.

PL: How were you able to come to the US?
SJQ: After receiving his chemo protocol, Dr.Shamvil told us that he needed a liver transplant as the tumor got shrunk but never went away. There is no facility of liver transplant in Pakistan. My maternal cousin worked on getting a visa for us, another cousin helped her and we were accepted on human parole. Now I am here in America living with one of my aunts. My uncles and aunts help us. My husband had to leave his work. We gave up almost everything to come here.

PL: How have the hospital visits been?
SJQ: In Karachi in the Children Cancer Hospital, the staff was cooperative and well trained. Here at Stony Brook Hospital, the staff is also cooperative, especially a nurse named Lori who is Aariz’s favorite. She is doing everything for us. Aariz started learning things in the hospital, he spends every day in the cancer center. He is growing while getting chemo, he started walking in the hospital, he is very used to the hospital and he thinks that it is his normal life.

PL: Tell us about his treatment.
SJQ: In the US, he has treatment every day. He will continue to get this toxic chemo until the transplant. He has a serious life-threatening infection in his lungs called aspergillus for which he receives medicine everyday.
I stay all day except the weekends in the hospital; it is a very long day for me and my son Hamza, who has made friends with all the nurses.

PL: How old is Aariz now? What does he do?
SJQ: Aariz is 18-months-old and started walking when he was not connected to his medicine. When the nurse does a treatment he yells “all done” and we all laugh. He plays with the medical supplies and pushes the big pump with his medicines.

PL: Has your faith become stronger in Allah?
SJQ: I already had a very strong faith in Allah but now it is stronger. When I reflect on the four weeks I spent in Liaqat National Hospital in Karachi, when Aariz was very sick or when Dr. Shamvil told us that our only hope is a transplant, I realize how Allah helped us and gave us courage to fight and keep our hopes.
I truly believe “mayoosi kufr hai.” Whenever I pray I say Allah, I have not given up hope and and I know that You don’t like those people who lose hope. Ya Allah give me “istaqamat.” It is this faith in Allah which keeps me and my very supportive husband, going.

PL: What is your hope now?
SJQ: That insha’Allah I will see Aariz running around me always, playing. My husband left work in Pakistan to come here. It’s hard seeing the hospital bills getting larger and larger and we have no insurance. We depend on our faith, family and friends to get by each day.
I know there are many people who are helping us in this crucial time. I am very grateful to them. Jazakumullahu khairan. Please keep praying for Aariz’s health.
Note: If you are able to, please send a donation to help give this baby a hope for life. Aariz’s bill at Stonybrook Hospital in New York is more than $200,000. Checks or money orders can be made to:
Save Aariz Foundation
17 Hamilton Avenue
Mount Vernon, NY 10552
To donate online and for more updates and information, visit www.helpaariz.com

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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