Father awaits help from PM Secretariat; 16-year-old dreams of completing school
Only 16, Salman Afridi is seeking a life he has already lost; the one he had before he was injured in the Badhaber blast on June 30, 2013. The young boy had gone to buy notebooks for homework during summer holidays when a powerful roadside bomb exploded in a market in Badabher. The target was a Frontier Corps convoy and the blast led to the death of at least 17 people, including four children.
The teenager who currently cannot breathe without a tracheotomy tube, was severely wounded in the lethal attack. Muhammad Raza Khan, the victim’s father, said his son was in eighth grade when the incident occurred, and has not been to school since.
“He spent six long months, undergoing a series of surgeries at various wards in Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) due to his extensive injuries,” says Raza. He explained Salman’s trachea was ruptured in the terrorist attack. Now,“He wants to speak but he can’t, so his elder brother or I speak on his behalf.” Raza added there was a severe communication problem since Salman does not know any sign language.
For six months, the teenager was unable to consume food or
A family’s struggle
Raza said the doctors eventually put a trachea tube in his son’s throat and were unable to offer further treatment due to the lack of facilities.
According to the father, “The doctors initially stated Salman would not survive as his trachea is damaged, but later my son was able to breathe through an artificial pipe.” He added, “Dr Niamatullah, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist, first wasted our time in various procedures in LRH and later said Salman could not be treated further as LRH lacked the sophisticated medical skill set needed.”
Raza works as an accountant at a jewellery shop in the city. He has gone from doctor to politician in a bid to get better medical care or financial aid to help his son.
He told The Express Tribune that he met Chief Minister Pervez Khattak at the CM House and told him about the critical situation of his son. The CM then redirected him to the health department which assembled a medical examination board, comprising four doctors. The board recommended Salman be sent abroad for medical treatment, there was nothing more that could be done in Pakistan.
Only for the select few?
“When I went to the health department, I was informed the government has placed a ban on sending patients abroad for treatment,” Raza added. However, later Minister for Health Shahram Tarakai said, “If a medical board recommended treatment abroad, then the decision over the recommendation lies with the CM; the health department could only send a summary of the case.” Tarakai also stated he had no knowledge of Salman’s case.
The trek for hope
After the aggrieved father was told by the health department about the ban, he felt he was left with few options. During the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistani Awami Tehreek dharna in Islamabad in 2014, Raza saw a slim chance to help his son and took it. Salman and Raza then travelled to Islamabad to meet Imran Khan.
“I met Imran Khan, Pervez Khattak and Shahram Tarakai; they assured me my son would be treated,” said Raza. And in spite of the medical board’s recommendations, the politicians admitted Salman to Shifa Hospital in Islamabad. “I thank Imran Khan for paying the bills, but my son is still not cured.”
Raza said he was tired, taking his son from one place to another in search of medical help. Although the father submitted a request for his son to go abroad for treatment to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, there has been no response yet.
Dreams live on
While his family searched for a miracle to help cure him, Salman was determined to start school again even though he cannot speak.
Raza explained Salman could walk to an extent and forced them to take him to school. He went, but later refused to go back, indicating his condition caused distress in class.
Some of his classmates told Raza it made them nauseous to see the cut in his throat and the sound the trachea tube made when he would breathe. His teachers also suggested that Salman not attend school anymore.
Some of Salman’s school friends still visit him at home, but while his family struggles to find him the right treatment, Salman lives under a cloud of disappointment as his classmates progress while he is left behind.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2015.