When Living Takes You By Surprise

Sometimes living takes you by surprise.

Zahraa was in the step-down unit when we asked what her hopes are for the future. Today is just the first day after her surgery, but she is already well enough to smile at silly jokes. She is relaxed in her bed, and turned down pain medication the nurse offered.

“What are your hopes for the future, Zahraa?”

“I don’t have any.”

Zahraa’s family knew she had a heart defect since she was a baby, but she functioned pretty well, so they didn’t pursue further treatment. They thought she might grow out of her heart defect, as some children do.

But life got only more complicated for Zahraa. She became an orphan. Both of her parents passed away—she and her older sister have had to learn to make their way in the world together.

Two weeks ago, Zahraa passed out. When she was found, she was bleeding from her nose and mouth. Knowing her history with a heart defect, loved ones rushed her to the hospital. Zahraa’s symptoms worsened quickly—she began losing weight, and her color changed.

When we first met Zahraa, before her surgery, we asked her if she was nervous.

“No, not at all.”

She seemed completely relaxed, at ease with whatever might happen in the next several hours. She talked and laughed, and flashed her beautiful smile. Zahraa faced death squarely in the face, and didn’t even blink.

But today, Zahraa is a 15 year old girl with a great prognosis for a long life. Thanks to you, and our amazing medical team, she gets to learn a new skill: how to dream about her future.

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