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Habiba’s father

Habiba’s parents recently bought some land at the Abode (a Sufi community in New York State) and sold their house. They moved into a room at the Abode and began preparing to build a new home. Last week, Habiba’s father was cutting down trees and three trees fell at the same time. One of them hit him before he could get clear. Habiba’s mum was there and called for an ambulance. Sydney, or Ramana, to use his Sufi name, had broken two vertebrae and a few other bones.

We were told about this on Tuesday morning by Habiba’s brother, Vakil. We were preparing for work and Habiba had had a message to get in touch overnight. Habiba was in tears as Vakil explained what had happened and what was happening. I held her as she listened. I’m sure the sorrow and helplessness I felt was just a fraction of what Habiba was feeling. Although what had happened was terrible, I think, for a moment, Habiba was expecting Vakil to deliver the worst news.

Fortunately, the worst news didn’t, and hasn’t come. Ramana was taken to a hospital in Albany where he was operated on and kept unconscious for a couple of days to help his body start to recover. It’s been a week now and he remains in a critical state, but he is slowly starting to show signs of improvement. He is often conscious now, but he has been unresponsive and uncooperative – probably because of the drugs he’s on causing disorientation, but also, we think, because of anger and depression.

Ramana’s prognosis is that he will probably recover, but be paralysed from the chest down. It’s very difficult to say with any certainty, though; things could get a lot better or a lot worse.

The past week has been emotional and stressful for Habiba (and this hasn’t been helped by the fact that we both have bad colds – and I have conjunctivitis again). If there’s one thing Habiba dislikes about living in Korea it’s feeling isolated from her family and friends. Last week’s accident has emphasised that in a pretty horrible way. She has been spending a lot of time on Skype with not just her immediate family, but with many of her friends as well. Everyone’s been very supportive.

Of course, everyone’s efforts at support have been aimed at Habiba’s dad, and there seems to have been a lot of support there for him. Habiba’s brother and sister both flew in from different parts of the US to spend time with him. The Sufi community has set up a committee to help Anne-Louise, or Noorunisa, sort out care, insurance, accommodation and so on. Some of Habiba’s friends are talking about putting on a benefit concert. Someone set up a web page to coordinate information and messages of support.

At first, Habiba didn’t want to make plans to return home. It just wasn’t a clear cut decision. He had been terribly, nearly fatally, injured, but he had survived and was being cared for. He was (and is still) in the hands of the health professionals, and will be for some time. She and I would have had to pay an awful lot to fly over there, and then it would only be for a short time – any longer and we’d lose our jobs (in some respects, that’s something I wouldn’t mind too much). Then we decided, Habiba reluctantly, to cancel our Mongolia trip and go for that week in mid-August.

Then on Sunday night, as Habiba was talking to her mother, she decided that she wanted to go as soon as possible. I’d already thought she would, but I didn’t want to push her. So, yesterday, my colleague Andrew helped me book a couple of tickets for us. We leave tomorrow, Wednesday the 9th of June and fly back on Saturday the 19th (really Friday night) and arrive back in the early hours of Sunday morning. Our flight out to JFK airport takes 14 hours, but we arrive only an hour after we leave – because time zones and all that stuff. The two tickets cost over $3,600 – money that Habiba doesn’t have, but I still have most of my savings from my last two years in Korea.

Habiba has talked a lot about her family, her friends and the Abode a lot in the past – now I’m finally going to see many of them. It’s terribly sad that it’s in such circumstances.

Categories: Health & Exercise, Life
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