In the name of Allah Most Compassionate Most Merciful.
Sometime after the Iraq invasion, I caught a part of a documentary on life for Iraqis on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). I do not remember exactly what part I started watching this documentary from, but I do remember vitamin K.
The documentary trailed an Iraqi man, whose wife was pregnant with twins. The woman ended up in preterm labor due to the stress of living in a war zone, and delivered a very frail set of boy and girl twins. I watched in shock as the presiding doctor did the best he could with the limited medical supplies to keep the twins growing inside a poorly equipped incubator. The babies were extremely tiny and skinny, and their appearance begged the pity of any observer. I kept hoping and praying that this story would have a happy ending, constantly asking, “they wouldn’t show a story on TV where babies die, right?”
The man was often sent out to find supplies or medications to sustain his twins’ health, and each time I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw the cameras capture his slim figure walk through the hospital room door carrying the supplies in his hands. But then the twins’ health started to deteriorate again, and the doctor, with his voice calm and collected, told the cameras that they were now Vitamin K deficient, and the hospital did not have anymore supplies on site due to the current volatile and dangerous situation of their country. The father once again set out to hopefully purchase vitamin K from the black market in time to save his vulnerable babies. But during his absence, the twins’ health took a turn for the worst and I watched in horror as the cameras zoomed in on their tiny, pink bodies, their eyes squinting, as they struggled to breathe. With no available oxygen ventilators, the doctor and staff were forced to standby and witness two innocent babies take their last breaths.
My own shock and pain at seeing that through a television screen were so unbearable that I could not help but feel the tightness in my chest as my eyes gushed forth tear after tear in mourning. Even as I write this post, the memory of those dying babies brings tears to my eyes and I am forced to pause and wipe my eyes before continuing.
The pain only increased as the cameras capture the father returning through the hospital doors with the vitamin K in his hands only to be told by the doctor that it was too late as the babies had just passed away. The man walked out of the room only to reappear soon after with what looked like two shoe boxes. It felt like someone had placed a boulder on my chest, as I watched the man pick up each lifeless little body with one hand, while reciting “inna-nillah” and placed it inside each shoe box, covering it.
His voice remained completely calm as he recited the dua for his deceased children, and his entire demeanor depicted a man who clearly had faith in his Maker, who despite his loss, understood that God had not abandoned him, that he was being tested with the most difficult of circumstances. My eyes fixed on the two shoe boxes carrying the lifeless babies, that would act as coffins for someone’s children. Think about that for a moment. These parents had to face premature birth of their children, followed by their death, only to have to bury them inside a shoe box. At that point, the video froze and the credits rolled. That was the end of that story as I knew it.
I like to give myself some perspective by comparing that story to the birth on my own triplets born prematurely. But I must bow down to God Almighty because He has been very generous to my family. I did not have to face the hardships the Iraqi parents faced.
My pregnancy was monitored by one of the best trained doctors in the world and my babies were delivered at one of the best hospitals in the world, closely monitored using the best technology and drugs modern times could offer, all paid for by the publicly funded medical system of my country. My babies not only had the best doctors, but also some of the best trained nurses in the world, having at least one nurse by their incubator twenty four hours per day seven days a week for seven weeks until they were strong enough to come home with us. Their vitals were constantly monitored and any slight changes were noted and taken care of if needed.
The one night when one of my babies stopped breathing all of sudden, the electrical monitors immediately alerted the staff at the NICU and I watched the doctors and nurses rush over to him to switch on the ventilator to get him to breath again. I was so afraid I would lose him that night as I stood helplessly over his incubator, the loud vibrations of the ventilator dominating my ears. But the by the grace and mercy of the loving Lord, my baby began breathing, and within a couple of days, went off the ventilator. There were other moments when we were afraid for the health and well being of our little babies, but we had the peace of mind that they were being taken care of by some of the best trained staff and equipment the world could offer, and were grateful for every day that passed by with them breathing, feeding, and growing. There was no vitamin K shortage at their hospital, and there were no bombs going off outside, just the usual, orderly traffic and hustle and bustle of people walking about a peaceful city.
Most of us take peace for granted. We do not understand that there are millions of people in our world who cannot step foot outside their homes for fear of being shot at or being blown up by a bomb. We feel nothing when we start our full tank cars and pull out of our neat little driveways to drive around town looking for the bank or grocery store or movie theater. And we feel nothing but self-pity or perhaps rage when we or a loved one ends up at the hospital, angry for being made to feel discomfort and pain. Most of us forget that once we are done feeling sorry or angry, we need to feel gratitude for having access to quality medical care. Access to quality medical care is not a joke. It is a huge blessing without which many of us would probably die. In fact, most of us would not be here were it not for Allah’s blessing of modern medical care. We have all had health scares in our lives, and so we all need to thank Allah SWT for giving us and our families access to proper drugs and care that allows us to remain as functioning family units and a thriving society.
Let us pray for the brave medical staff working in conflict zones, and are often underpaid, understaffed, and ill-equipped to treat their seriously ill or injured patients. And let us also remember to pray for our suffering brothers and sisters who would do anything to get a couple of drops of vitamin K from the black market to save their dying children.