60 percent burns – story of Waqar Khalid

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I met with Waqar Khalid, on December 04, 2010, more than a year after the IIUI blast in which he was critically burnt, and miraculously recovered. His story is given below.

20th of October 2009 was a routine day for the students of the IIUI, as they went about the campus going from class to class.

Waqar Khalid, Nafees, and Khalil, three friends were happy that the class they were in had ended ten minutes early, and the next class had been cancelled due to the teachers commitment elsewhere, which gave them time to attend to some errands in the time available.

As they stood and packed their Laptops to come put of class, they heard a loud bang, there was a collective shout of bomb blast, followed by no, not possible,

The three came out of class and joined the students coming out of the department to see what had caused the blast. Suddenly Waqar heard a bang and was thrown to the ground. He felt his entire body in pain, and the smell of burning flesh was in his nostrils.

As he lay on the floor, he closed his eyes, and felt the heat all over him, he thought his head had been severed from his body and he shut his eyes tight, for a few seconds he did not understand what had happened, then he thought maybe there had been a bomb blast, and recited the kalmia, and prayed for a peaceful death. Then he remembered ad recited the darood. Opening his eyes he saw fire all round, and realized that that pain and burning smell were his own, he called out to Allah, and felt himself lifted up, unsure un steady he started to walk, and came down the stairs to the ground level and came out of the building, he looked through hurting eyes, the left one seemed to have melted in the fire, and shouted for help.

Hundreds of students stood outside the building, most of them clicking away with their cell phone cameras, but no one came forward to help him, he shouted again, ‘help,’ and two students came forward and held him, taking him to the hospital. (Picture attached).

He has little recollection of the journey from the university to the hospital or of the time spent in the emergency, he learnt later from his friends who took him to the hospital that the emergency department doctors told his friends after examining him to take him home as his had 60% burns and that made him critically injured with negative survival chances. Luckily for him, in the meanwhile other students came to the hospital and when they heard what the doctors had said they forced their way into the emergency and told the doctors how Waqar can be that bad as he had walked down the stairs on his own and called for help before collapsing.

In the meanwhile between periods of waking and unconsciousness, Waqar felt a pain on his chest, which was a diversion from the pain he was feeling from the burns, later he was told that the doctors had stitched a wound on him, and he says that the pain of being stitched was a diversion, and much less than the pain of the burns.

On the insistence of the student’s there, to give Waqar a fighting chance, the doctors in the emergency passed him on t the burn unit, sure that soon he would be dead, and that the wrath of the students better be in another area of the hospital.

In the burn unit, the doctors tried t o put him on ventilator, but had difficulty as most of he skin on is body was peeling off, when the senior doctor, Dr. Tariq came round and stopped them and told them to go for dressing his burns which were exposed and go for the ventilator after that. This was done and Waqar was placed on a bed duly dressed in gauze and almost his entire body bandaged. And thus began a wait for the 60% statistics to be become reality.

All this time Waqar has one recollection, he kept on reciting the darood, later on a doctor in the hospital (Dr. Shamuna) told him that when she had a hard time attending to him in the emergency when he was brought in on 20th October, all burnt, she would ask him to recite the darood, because that made his body relaxed, and made it easier for her to attend to his injuries.

Soon his family arrived, and the care started, the hospital staff worked on him, and the daily change of dressing was an ordeal he dreaded, once the dressing was changed, he would relax and stop worrying for a few hours, and then the wait for the next round of painful change of dressing. 6 month to eight, that too if he is lucky, was what the family was told, 60 percent burns meant that till he is completely out of the woods he will remain critical, we cannot promise you anything. Dua and dawa (prayers and medicines) are needed.

He remembers the evening of the day, when one of his teachers visited him; Waqar asked about his friends Nafees and Khalil, the teacher was surprised and quickly left. Returning to the university they were able to identify the remains of the two, who had till then been declared unidentified dead foreigner students.

Three weeks after almost not being admitted and given up as critical with no hope for survival, Waqar surprised everyone by walking out of the burn unit. A miracle if the hospital staff is to be believed.

Now a year on, he bears the scars of burning on his hands and body, his eye is safe, but the scars inside remain. Why and who, the lingering doubts, some anger at friends, the university, and people. But on the whole life goes on. Studies are as usual, and the media attention is almost gone.

I believe that all this was possible because of faith, and the fact that so many people prayed for me, and stood with me and the family in our hours of trial, pain, and uncertainty.

Waqar has four semesters to go before he finishes his Arabic translation Bachelors degree. He hopes to get a good job that will be both professionally rewarding and personally fulfilling. He also hopes to join hands with people who are working to create awareness and understanding of the pain for the victims, families and survivors of terrorism in Pakistan.

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