Aman ki Asha and Rotary international’s ‘heart to heart’ initiative saved Muzaffar’s life – and will benefit 199 more under-privileged Pakistani children through free heart surgeries in India
He has the cutest smile. One that was nearly wiped out forever by a congenital heart disease that his parents had no means of getting treated in Pakistan.
Muzaffar Ahmed Khan was only three years old he developed a seemingly never-ending severe chest congestion and cold. His father Rozay Khan, a teacher at a private school in Loralai, took the boy to a medical specialist the nearest big city in Quetta, 260 km away – a long road trip by any standards, and more so for a sick child. The trip led to a doctor diagnosing the boy as having a congenital heart condition. The treatment – risky and expensive heart surgery – was way beyond the reach of his father.
The boy lived on with the help of various medications, but without the required surgery, he was not expected to live much longer. The despair and pain of the family, and the discomfort of the sick child, can only be imagined.
It was a news report in the daily Jang of October 2, 2010 that set them on a path they will forever be grateful for. The paper had a report about a nine-year old Pakistani boy Muhammad Sufiyan, who also had a congenital heart problem. The report said that Rotary International and Aman ki Asha had taken Sufiyan to India where he underwent a successful operation at Manipal Hospital, Bangalore. Suddenly there was hope.
Rozay Khan contacted the Rotary Club representatives in Quetta, and provided them with Muzaffar’s medical documents. Things began to move. The Rotary officials contacted their counterparts in India and sent them the documents. Within a week the family was asked to make arrangements to travel.
Muzaffar was to be accompanied by his father and uncle Qaisar Khan. The Indian High Commission granted their visas within three days. Aziz Memon (President King Group) former governor of Rotary Club helped expedite the travel and other logistics.
They flew to Mumbai on May 5, 2011, and the next day, to Kolkata. There was some difficulty at the immigration, says Rozay Khan, but Rotary representatives in India helped smooth their way.
On May 7 Muzaffar was admitted to Kolkata’s Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences. He underwent a two-and-a-half hour operation on May 11. He was discharged on May 19, with a month’s medication and a directive to avoid lifting heavy items for some time.
The doctors said that Muzaffar should get a medical examination after six months to be on the safe side, but that he was now perfectly healthy. It was like a miracle.
Barely a month later, Muzaffar and his father and uncle visited Aman ki Asha in Karachi on June 4, a day after they returned from India. If one had not been told, there were no signs that this smiling boy had so recently undergone a serious operation. He sat there beaming at us, shyly looking out from underneath long lashes that fringed his mischievous eyes. He would have pranced around the room like any other seven-year old, but was restrained by his father, who held him in his lap throughout the visit. Muzaffar was restless, and probably bored, but seemed to enjoy the attention.
Rozay Khan glowed with happiness at his son’s rapid recovery. A huge weight had been lifted off him, and his wife, who had been worried sick about their son, as his condition didn’t look too good before leaving for India. The first thing he did after Muzaffar’s successful operation was to call his wife over the phone. “It was an emotional time for all of us, but it has passed – all because of Aman ki Asha and Rotary Club.”
Rozay Khan was all praise for India. “I was given so much love and warmth in India that I didn’t even feel I was away from home,” he said. “The Indians were very hospitable. They treated us just like brothers; they did so much for us that at times we were embarrassed. The hospital staff gave Muzaffar so much love and affection also. It was like we were still in Pakistan. Except for some of the people who didn’t speak Urdu or Hindi in Kolkata, I wouldn’t have known I wasn’t in Pakistan.”
Muzaffar’s uncle added that the Indians were amazed to hear them speaking Urdu – which they thought was Hindi. “They would ask us where we learnt to speak Hindi, and I would laugh and say we were not speaking Hindi we were speaking Urdu.”
He found the Indian people to be very interested in Pakistan. “They asked us so many questions and said they would love to come visit. However they lamented that they knew it would be impossible because of the visa issues. I told them that they should come, and be my family’s guests and see Pakistan.”
“So many people told us to convey their message through the media and Aman ki Asha to Pakistani authorities to ease travel to Pakistan,” said Rozay Khan. “They should do away with the obstacles that travellers have to face if they want to travel from India to Pakistan and vice versa.”
He said that in the nearly two months they spent in India they did not encounter any hostility – only got love and hospitability. “When people got to know that we had come for Muzaffar’s operation they were extra nice, even friendlier, more helpful and hospitable.”
Muzaffar gained health, love and friends across the border. His family wishes that the people of both countries were allowed to interact and visit each other more. They are grateful to Aman ki Asha and Rotary club for helping give Muzaffar a new life.
“We wish,” said Rozay Khan, “that the path of peace continues between the two countries through Aman ki Asha’s efforts. And we pray that we see peace between our two countries so we can visit our new friends again, and have them visit us.”
When total strangers from India and Pakistan joined hands to help Muzaffar, they did more than help save a life. They sparked off a determination in his family to get a good education for Muzaffar. They want him to be able to enter medical college and become a doctor himself. If anyone would like to contribute and help sponsor Muzaffar’s education to enable him to one day help others, please contact Aman ki Asha – [email protected]