This is part of our annual, series, “14 Days, 14 Stories”, about ordinary Pakistanis who are doing extraordinary things.
Often, life doesn’t go according to the plans that we have laid out for ourselves. Unexpected incidents can meddle with the plans that we have made and it then depends on us, how we want to take charge of that situation.
Anam Najam from Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir has an inspiring story about her best laid plans being unraveled by nature and how she overcame her challenges
Like many girls in Pakistan, she had also dreamt of becoming a doctor – a profession considered the most prestigious for young women and men in the country. When she was in her third year of MBBS in 2008, an incident changed her entire life.
Anam had to go to Rawalpindi to attend a family wedding. They decided to return back to Muzaffarabad in the wee hours of the night. The problem, however, was that at that time the roads are deserted and there is a higher chance of getting robbed. The technique that robbers use to stop the car is by firing at it.
So while they were on their way back to Muzaffarabad during the night and on the deserted roads, a group of robbers attacked their car
They started firing at the car to make it stop. One of the bullets, however, hit Anam – it hit her in the neck and instead of going across, it stopped midway. That not only left her with excruciating pain but also with an extremely difficult challenge at hand. She was left paralyzed below the neck.
“Life was not the same anymore & each day placed a new challenge before me but I was determined to fight. I was discharged from hospital after about 5 weeks and was brought home when I couldn’t even hold my neck. I had no grip in my hands so my mother became my full-time caretaker helping me with eating, bathing dressing etc. I had lost my bladder & bowel control so I started using a catheter & diapers. It was a very hard time for me as well as for my family”, Anam wrote.
They tried every avenue that they could get to help regain her mobility. In 2010, Anam also went to Cologne, Germany to try stem cell therapy but that also did not help
She was determined to not let that condition dictate what her life was going to be. She wanted to resume her studies and push herself to not just remain wheelchair-bound.
“Almighty gave us the courage and with the help of my family & friends, I resumed my studies in the very unfeasible physical conditions. I couldn’t even sit straight when I joined my college in a reclined wheelchair. I couldn’t use my hands to hold or to open a book or to turn its pages and my family and friends started assisting me with that.”
Anam started reading up on her condition in order to get in control. Quadriplegia is the condition where there is a partial or complete loss of use of all the four limbs
It is both, the loss of sensation and control. Her background in biology helped her understand what she was going through.
“Against all the odds, God started creating paths for me and I completed my MBBS degree without wasting a single academic year and I became Dr. Anam Najam.”
However, she was determined to do something with her life and complete the mission that she had started. She contacted the board of doctors in Pakistan, which announced that she could only practice a few fields of medicine due to her disability. That is when she decided to specialize in psychiatry and went on to become Pakistan’s first quadriplegic psychiatrist.
“I move around in a motorized wheelchair, work in a hospital, write with the help of assisted devices though I need two persons to transfer me from bed to wheelchair, wheelchair to car and vice versa. I’m sharing my story with all of you to extend my message of hope… Stop waiting for a miracle and start striving! A hard battle is not an excuse to quit.”
The story of Anam Najam is one of great resilience and determination. While she was battling this injury, Muzaffarabad was still recovering from the aftermath of the earthquake, which meant that the hospitals did not have adequate facilities. But she refused to allow her condition to dictate her future. This is why she believes that it depends on us and how we respond to our circumstances that how our life turns out.
For more stories from our series about extraordinary Pakistanis check out “14 Days, 14 Stories”.
cover image via dawn.com