The Spirit of New England
By Fauzia Wali Khan, MD
Association of Pakistani Physicians of New England
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
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?’
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
‘Social workers brought us warm clothes and food and
Boston ’s Pakistani community reached out and facilitated
with translation, interpretation and collaboration with the
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.