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My Son Yousuf and his Cancer

By Umm Yousuf

In the dark corners of a hospital room a nurse yanked off her rubber gloves after administering Yousuf’s very first blood transfusion. It was late and already dark outside while we all sat in the emergency room surrounding Yousuf’s bed as he lay there exhausted falling asleep from a long day. The lights were off, in pursuit to provide Yousuf as much comfort as the situation would allow. There we sat, with nothing but the lights of all the monitors from the infusion tower.

I glanced over and saw the reflections from the lit-up monitor screens staring back at me from Abu Yousuf’s glasses. He sat reclined with his head facing towards The All-Merciful. Surely, HE is the only One we could call on for support in such a time as this.

After hearing our son’s diagnosis of leukemia, we continued listening, as the doctor sat in the chair next to us, illustrating for us the next few days. The more the doctor talked the harder it became to listen. We were having a difficult time absorbing the first part of the news–the cancer part. My eyes darted from the doctor to Abu Yousuf and saw the reflections from his glasses enhance the wetness under his eyes. He was biting his bottom lip and just kept his gaze upward.

Yousuf, like any other vibrant 3 ½ year old, normally, was always full of energy, excited to see other kids his age and loved to play with his baby brother. His favorite toys were anything about transportation: Trains, cars, airplanes…you name it! He enjoyed sea animals and climbing. He’s famous for the best greeter. If he knows you well and hasn’t seen you for a while he screams your name and stretches his arms out wide! His smiles and laughter can brighten any room.

It had been several days that I saw a huge change in behavior. He didn’t want to walk, started to act antisocial, would cry from being anywhere but home, and would complain of being cold in the summer heat. I couldn’t understand what the matter was since he didn’t seem to have any cold or flu symptoms. A disease steadily attacking and killing off his blood cells certainly did not cross my mind. His blood count was so low that the doctor was surprised he could walk at all. His face was ghostly white with the only color to him being the redness under his eyes. I am amazed how I didn’t recognize it before. My son was dying. He was slowly deteriorating by loss of blood gradually draining him of life little by little.

The very next day in the hospital, during his 4th or 5th blood transfusion, I sat there next to his side trying to face the reality of the situation; It was at that time a lady came in. We had many visitors, mostly doctors and nurses, but this lady didn’t seem to be interested so much in getting Yousuf’s attention as she was trying to gain mine.  She sympathized with me, of course, and then she went on to start to explain the pamphlet she was holding in her hands.  She told me, “If someone asks you how they can help, tell them THIS is how.”  And she handed me the pamphlet about giving blood.  At the time, I could not think about anything but my son and my own emotions but I tucked it in my binder, with every intention of pulling it out one day eager to give

If it weren’t for a sufficient amount of blood in the bank, might not be alive today.

The normal hemoglobin count for a boy Yousuf’s age is between 11.5 and 14. When we arrived to the Emergency room was at a 2. In effort to bring the very essence of this little boy and the vivacity back into his veins, Yousuf underwent many more transfusions over the first phase of therapy. He continues to depend on the donations of others’ blood to keep him alive through his battle with leukemia.

I know that many of us cringe when seeing a needle.  The experience of being pricked and poked doesn’t send a surge of excitement or joy through our veins rather puts a strain on our comfort and a feeling of uneasiness.  For many people, including Yousuf and many kids just like him, they don’t have a choice.  They can’t just ignore it and say no, their life depends on it.  Their life also depends on those who overlook their fears, ignore the small price of a tiny poke, and enjoy the thought of what their action is doing.

Starting from that night of my son’s first blood transfusion, until today, by the Grace of Allah, donors continue to sustain my son’s life and others like him. Each time a person dedicates a portion of their blood, know that in some dark corner of a hospital room it’s saving someone’s life….Just as it did my son that night.

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