A tale of defying the odds and inspiring resilience

Oman Sunday 26/May/2024 20:25 PM
By: Pankaj K Sharma
A tale of defying the odds and inspiring resilience

MUSCAT: It is a tale where resilience meets resolve and Bahrain’s Zakareya Al Khadem's story shines as a beacon of hope with his unwavering determination to tackle life as a patient of sickle cell disease (SCD).

During his recent visit to Muscat, Al Khadem brought attention to the challenges of sickle cell disease, shedding light on its impact with each word he spoke.

Al Khadem's shared his personal odyssey, unveiling the triumphs and tribulations faced by individuals grappling with SCD.

With unwavering resolve, he unveiled insights from the Sickle Cell Health Awareness, Perspectives, and Experience (SHAPE), painting a clear picture of the challenges within.

A warrior whose spirit knows no bounds, Al Khadem, though physically frail, spoke with the vigour of a seasoned champion, recounting his perilous dance with mortality since the tender age of five.

Initially misjudged as a fleeting affliction by his parents, the diagnosis cast a shadow of permanence when doctors pronounced it as a life-threatening condition, seemingly tethering him to a fate of a very short life.

Yet, defying the grim prognosis, Al Khadem exceeded the eight-year sentence, challenging fate with unwavering fortitude.

With each passing milestone, he embraced life with a resolute heart, surpassing every expectation with grace and tenacity.

Today, at 50, he stands tall, a testament to resilience, telling his children, "I am a valiant fighter; I am here to stay."

Recounting the harrowing moments in the ICU, he painted a story of resilience, where amid the flurry of medical expertise, he found the strength to evade death's grasp.

The founder and chairman of Bahrain Sickle Cell Society, Al Khadem recounted, "There were moments when I hovered between life and death, surrounded by nearly 30 doctors. Yet, I somehow evaded the clutches of death."

One of the doctors, Dr Jaafar Al Touq, came along with him to Muscat during the panel discussion on the SCD held at JW Marriott Hotel recently.

Al Touq stood by his side amid the darkness of uncertainty as a steadfast ally in his battle.

"You will not succumb," echoed Al Touq words, igniting a flame of determination within Al Khadem's soul.

In his praise for the supportive governments of Oman and Bahrain, Al Khadem illuminated the contrasting landscapes of survival, where hope thrives.

“People in Oman suffering from SCD live until 55 years while in Bahrain the life expectancy is up to 65 years,” he said.

He added: “Even in the same family if two persons are suffering, one would come to the clinic regularly but the other would avoid. Maybe it has something to do with stigma, finances and social causes.”

Yet, amid the whispers of societal stigma and financial hardship, he recognised the shadows that loom over those afflicted with SCD.

Within his narrative lies the poignant reality of solitary battles fought within the familial confines. Social gatherings and aspirations are eclipsed by the omnipresent spectre of illness, casting shadows over lives intertwined with SCD.

“A patient has to fight a lonely battle on many fronts. One’s own family will convince not to enter into wedlock and keep illness under the wraps. Many families have to suffer as they have to miss their social gatherings or vacations due to the ailment of the patient at home,” he said.

“Even when you try to educate society and dispel misunderstandings about illness, they may dismiss you as too fragile. And finding a job becomes a challenge due to your medical condition," remarked Al Khadem.

In his mission to challenge societal misconceptions, Al Khadem's unwavering voice, despite facing resistance, resounds with undeniable conviction. "We are not weak; we are warriors," he said, striving to paint a world where acceptance triumphs over prejudice and understanding eclipses ignorance.