Episode 6: Dr Waheed

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This episode of Our Voices reveals the story of Dr Waheed: a former refugee born in Afghanistan whose journey to reach the UK was fraught with danger and difficulty.

Afghanistan was in the midst of conflict when Dr Waheed was born.  Soviet troops had entered the country making it necessary for him and his family to flee on multiple occasions.  As a small boy, he found himself living in a refugee camp in Pakistan.  Dr Waheed and his family occupied a single room, which was dominated by mosquitoes and intense heat.  There was also very little food or clean water, and not a single mattress between them.  Living in such conditions, it was not a surprise that the young boy became ill.  He developed a cough, which seemed to be getting worse by the day.

One day, after a particular coughing fit, he raised his hand to his mouth and noticed that there was a trickle of blood.  Fearing that something was seriously wrong with his son, Dr Waheed’s father took him to a local doctor who confirmed that Dr Waheed had tuberculosis.  The situation was grave: if Dr Waheed’s father could not provide better living conditions for his son then there was a real danger that his son would not survive the illness.  

As the family had no means of generating an income, improving their living conditions was not an option but Dr Waheed continued to visit the doctor every few weeks in order for his progress to be monitored.  Dr Waheed describes these visits as “providing hope… the first quality he displayed was kindness”.  Dr Waheed realised that the doctor was trying to keep both him and his father mentally strong as he battled his condition.

Dr Waheed was eventually able to recover from his illness and, at the age of 15, he moved to the UK.  He got the grades he needed to study medicine at Cambridge University and he has since set up a charity to enable doctors working in warzones to consult with expert clinicians abroad.

Dr Waheed has found his work challenging at times.  Confronted with a patient who was terminally ill with cancer, he was reminded of his mother, who was also in the same condition at the time.  The impact of seeing this woman’s pain so vividly expressed caused him to leave the room and, for a few moments, the doctor broke down.  Dr Waheed was able to return to the room and did all he could to provide treatment to his patient, just as he had done all he could to treat his mother remotely.  Unfortunately, both patients would pass away the following year.

Dr Waheed describes his mother as being “resilient”.  Surviving war-torn conditions, she constantly did her best to provide reassurance to her family.  He reflects on her life and his experiences with these words: “Life goes on, we do suffer but that suffering can make us better human beings.” As someone dedicated to helping others both through his profession and his charity, you would have to say that life has made the best of this human being at least.

Also, if you’re a medical professional who is looking to work in the UK, and you need to pass either IELTS or OET, go to www.swooshenglish.com .

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