3-minute read

The Gift I Received from an Unexpected Health Scare


Heera Nawaz

I am a teacher in her 60s who dabbles in writing articles, short stories, poems, songs and plays. I have been teaching for over 20 years and I love to combine teaching with writing, so I do take up creative writing classes and was the Editor of the School Magazine, where I also used to edit articles and poems from the students for the Times of India student edition. I was judged the best NIE (Newspaper in Education) Teacher Co-ordinator by The Times of India from over 250 schools in Bengaluru. I write poetry for online poetry websites and have won several national and international prizes for the same. I believe in causes, and if we can give our time and talent to underprivileged citizens, we would be giving much of what matters most in the world. "No act of kindness is ever wasted," I can vouch for that. I can be reached at [email protected]

“What do you mean you can’t perform the surgery?” my sister almost screamed at the surgeon.

“Sorry Ma’am, the rules are that the patient should have an oxygen saturation level of over 95%” for the surgery to be successful,” the surgeon replied calmly but firmly.

Flashback to over a month before this conversation when I was taken by my sister and her husband to an eye specialist as vision in my right eye was severely impaired. After a battery of tests, the ophthalmologist and optician jointly told us: “It’s not a problem of the eyes. It could be due to some anomaly with the nervous system. Check with your neurologist.”

So began my trips to hospital. Eyesight is important to life and cannot be neglected. An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imagining) scan showed that I had a lesion or tumour in my brain blocking the optic nerve leading to the right eye, rendering me completely blind in that eye. “Removal of the lesion by surgery would be required. We don’t want her left eye to be affected.”

It was scary. That night I cried myself to sleep. I was 60 years old, a single woman and devoted teacher. There were so many things I still wanted to do - travel abroad, write a book, meet famed actress Aishwarya Rai. The list on my bucket list was endless. I prayed to God to show me a way out of this odyssey.

The next day as I got ready for my brain surgery I recalled the words of my friend, Dr. Latika Shah Singh: “Life has knocked me down a few times. It has shown me things I never wanted to see. I have experienced sadness and failures. But one thing’s for sure, I always get up.” I decided to get up, buck up and show up. I told God that if there was any plan He had in my life, any vision or purpose for me to fulfil, then make the surgery successful and prevent me from losing sight in my left eye.

In the emergency ward, the junior doctors repeatedly took my oxygen saturation level with an oximeter until the senior surgeon told us surgery was not possible. I had to be admitted to the hospital to improve this aspect with diet, simple exercises, sessions with a bi-pap machine and medicines.

When I was finally discharged from hospital, discussion with my sister and her doctor friends convinced me to get a second opinion. That was a life-changing moment for me. At the second hospital after a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan was done, the doctors said that surgery may not be required as the lesion could be minimized with appropriate medication and diet. But, horror of horrors, the PET scan showed I had tuberculosis! Bad luck seemed to be dogging me! Since treatment for TB lasts for over a year, I was put on medication and after a month’s stay in the hospital, I was discharged. My sister kindly let me live with her as staying alone was not feasible for me.

What’s the take-aways of my story? After moving around in a wheelchair for two months, I had to learned how to walk again from scratch. I learned the value of my legs and the importance of treating physically challenged people with respect. My permanent loss of vision in my right eye taught me the value of eyesight and to be grateful that at least my left eye was functional. I learned the value of family - they are the stars in my seemingly gloomy dark sky. I learned to be grateful to doctors and modern medicine and facilities for they helped save my life.

Lastly, I was grateful to God who opened my eyes to the reality of life around me. Two years on, I’m in the pink of health. I’m a completely transformed person, more optimistic and positive. I’m now a fitness freak and I eat healthy. I’ve become a motivational speaker and writer focused on the importance of honing a good attitude.  Indeed, mind power and emotional strength are the most essential traits. I learned that eyesight is important, but a vision is more so, because, “What is the use of eyes if the mind is blind?” 

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