The Spirit of New England
Mending Hearts
By Fauzia Wali Khan, MD
Association of Pakistani Physicians of New England


Hasan Kashif

Four-year old Hasan Kashif is a child who has had a change of heart and a new interest in life. He often gets surprised at his newfound ability to play with a ball. The sense of bewilderment and wonder on his face are apparent as his eyes light up when he sees the sight and sounds of Boston. He explores his new environment and makes new friends. His new favorite movie is Home Alone 2.
Hasan is currently undergoing cardiac rehabilitation, at the world renowned Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. He will be returning to his native country Pakistan where his mother and two other siblings anxiously await his arrival.
The four-year old was born with the congenital heart condition known as Transposition of the great vessels. The lack of oxygen gave a bluish cyanotic hue to his lips, nails and face along with fatigue, malaise and retardation in his physical growth parameters, thereby preventing him from partaking in regular childhood activities.
Hasan Kashif’s family had spent the past four years consulting various doctors in Pakistan; across the border in neighboring India and then thru family and friends finally made contact with the Children’s Hospital Boston, Massachusetts.
This world-renowned institution has an international free care committee for reviewing cases and medical evaluations from around the world. The decision-making process regarding provision of care to Kashif included a team of physicians - Kathy Jenkins MD and John Mayer MD.
Dr. Kathy Jenkins and Dr. Justin Zachariah were the primary cardiologists in Kashif’s case. Dr. Frank Pigula was the assigned Cardiothoracic Surgeon.
When The Children’s Hospital and Dr. Justin Zachariah gave Hasan’s family the good news about the possibility of performing the corrective cardiothoracic procedure known as the Nelsons procedure; the small family from Shahdara Lahore was overjoyed and immediately started arranging for the funds and paperwork needed to come over to a far off place called Boston to save their little one’s life.
Treatment and possible cure seemed a mere 24 hour flight away. The family had no clue about the harsh realities of the world we live in today. The family was denied a visa to travel to the US and finally after much deliberation; it was agreed that only Hasan and his dad would be permitted to travel.
This ordeal lasted one month; at which point Dr. Justin Zachariah contacted the Honorary Consul General of Pakistan; Barry Hoffman in Boston. Barry and his wife Lane were instrumental in contacting the State Department and other US agencies to facilitate the process. The security clearance took four-and-half-months.
‘Why did they consider us a security risk?’


Barry Hoffman (center) with Kashif and Kashif’s father

The family’s fear and apprehension of meeting ‘Amreeki’ people and traveling to America with very minimal English language skills were soon put to rest as they interacted with the staff and physicians at Boston ’s Children’s Hospital.
‘They received us like one of their own, Dr. Justin and the nurses were so kind.’
The family in Pakistan had worked hard to raise funds for the cost of living arrangements and travel expenses. Hasan’s father was even more amazed about the concept of ‘free care’ and the contribution of the ‘Amreeki tax payer’ towards saving his four-year-old child’s life.
‘Social workers brought us warm clothes and food and toys.’
Boston ’s Pakistani community reached out and facilitated with translation, interpretation and collaboration with the treatment team.
Boston area physicians of Pakistani descent (Association of Pakistani Physicians of New England: APPNE) got a chance to host the family and show them around Boston.
Dr. Nadeem Afridi was in contact with the surgical ICU nurses and helped the family make key decisions regarding Hasan’s post op care.
The Afridi kids introduced Hasan to The Museum of Science. The Imax Theater’s Shark movie was a little stressful for the four-yr-old’s heart. He did however enjoy all the attention he got from the girls basketball team from the Park School in Brookline . The father was blown away by the women’s tough competitive game of basketball at Harvard.
Hasan will return to Pakistan with a heart that will carry an endearing memory of his time spent here in the US amongst strangers who showed him so much love and kindness.
The father and son have had a very positive ‘Amreeki’ change of heart.
They fear the brutal New England winters but carry back with them the warmth and gentle spirit of all that we proudly consider the spirit of New England.

 

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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