“Cerebral venous thrombosis,” explained the neurologist as I gasped for air and rubbed the streaming tears from my eyes. My father wrapped his arm around me while the doctor explained that my best friend, Basam Cheema, wouldn’t be able to remember anything prior to the day he was admitted to intensive care. Basam’s mother told me that the family had been trying to reach me since the night of the incident and that I was among the first few who had been contacted. After I began to weep yet again, my father pulled me back, handed me a tissue and began talking to Mrs. Cheema. My brother told me that everything was going to be okay and that all I needed to do at the time was pray. I sat on the cold wooden floor, covered my wet face with my hands and began praying. I was angered, depressed and confused, all the while continuing to ask myself, “Why would God completely ruin the life of someone who was so respected, so intelligent, so faithful and loved by so many?”
The neurologist walked up to where I was sitting, kneeled next to me, and explained that Basam had suffered a stroke as a result of a blood clot in his brain. “He’s blessed,” he said. “He’s blessed that his memory has been taken away rather than his life.” He then patted me on the back, lent me his arm and pulled me up and off the floor. I walked into the room in complete disregard of the surrounding family members and stared into my friend’s empty, clueless eyes. He slowly stuck out his arm so that he could shake my hand and reintroduce himself. I slowly reached for his hand and stuttered as I claimed, “It’s me, Mousa, your best friend.” With a blank look on his face, Basam responded, “Hi, Mousa.” I began trembling as a wave of emotion overwhelmed me and collapsed onto the floor as the surrounding cries and moans became increasingly louder.
My best friend had forgotten about me and there was nothing I could do about it.
I decided to stay overnight at the hospital for the next few days not only because I was obligated to support Basam and his family, but also because I would have a chance to rebuild our memories together from scratch. After his family left, Basam and I would stay up and discuss everything that had happened prior to the stroke—our rides to and from lunch, our teachers and classmates, our summer workout plan that resulted in my temporary six-pack, and anything and everything in between. These nights will forever stay etched in my memory—these were nights that have compelled me to truly appreciate my blessings, reexamine my perspective on life and reclaim my faith. During these nights, it was my job to remind Basam of the people in his life, of everything he had experienced and of the lessons he had learned in the past. I would see the despair and confusion in Basam’s eyes when he realized that he had lost so much of his memory. I stopped saying “do you remember when?” after I realized that it was just too hard to see in him the discomfort and pain of not understanding anything he witnessed in the past. Teary-eyed and emotionally debilitated, I looked up at the ceiling of the room and prayed for a miracle. Soon enough, the fatigue and distress caused by the events of the night induced me to lie down and fall asleep.
The next day, Basam told me that he couldn’t sleep because he had been up all night trying to figure out what had happened. Then he looked at me, smiled, and said, “I have faith that everything is going to be alright.” It was clear that Basam was back to normal regardless of the amnesia that persisted. His headache had disappeared; he smiled for the first time in days and proceeded to beat me in a game of Scrabble with a score of 181-92. Throughout the next few days, he regained his argumentative skills and completely conquered our debates on political philosophy. He embarrassed me in a few videogames, recovered his quick wit and sarcasm and resumed his dietary habit of consuming unhealthy amounts of junk food on a daily basis. Throughout all of this, I was amazed not by the fact that my prayers seemed to have been answered, but by Basam’s strength, perseverance and will to have a positive outlook on everything that was going on around him.
The doctors recently indicated that the blood clot in Basam’s brain had completely dissolved. Though the amnesia still persists, the neurologist proclaimed that Basam’s recovery was “a miracle.” I’m not sure whether or not my prayers came through, but the fact that my friend remained strong through it all and inexplicably recovered in the end should not be taken for granted. It was, in fact, a miracle.
A miracle, indeed.
Mousa Alshanteer is a Trinity freshman. His column runs every other Thursday. You can follow Mousa on Twitter @mousaalshanteer.