Story of Waleed Ahmed

Story of Waleed Ahmed (The boy who performed the Groundbreaking of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, Karachi.)

Waleed Ahmed, a young 6 year old boy in Class 1 was living in a small house with his parents and two siblings in Kotri, Jamshoro (Sindh). Being the youngest child in his family, he always received special attention from those around him. Waleed would wait impatiently each evening to hear the footsteps of his father, who worked as a salesman in a local ice-cream company, to greet him with a big hug. Everyone knew that if Waleed is upset, his father knows the secret to cheer up the little boy. But even his father couldn’t do the trick when Waleed started having fever that wouldn’t go away. His condition was misdiagnosed at a local hospital in Hyderabad as chest infection and he was also prescribed medicine for tuberculosis. The medicine did not help much. However, his parents were truly alarmed to notice a mass on Waleed’s neck. In search of a cure to what ailed their son, the family travelled to Chiniot where Waleed’s maternal grandparents lived.

A local hospital in Faisalabad operated on the mass and sent the sample to Shaukat Khanum Laboratory Collection Centre for analysis. When the results came back, Waleed was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (a type of cancer). At that moment, his parents felt utter hopelessness as several questions started whirling around in their minds with no answers. Is the treatment even possible, how will they manage to cover the treatment cost even if the treatment is possible, will they lose their son? And at that moment, they made a decision. They would do whatever it takes and travel any number of miles in order to save their boy.

They were advised to go to Karachi for treatment as chemotherapy is a prolonged treatment and it would be convenient for them to be closer to their home. Waleed’s father was anxious about the future of his son when he received a call from his family who pledged their support to Waleed’s treatment; they would even sell the roof on their head if they need to, for his sake. He knew the treatment of cancer is expensive and therefore, he worried that even the kind gesture by his family might prove insufficient. They visited the Shaukat Khanum Diagnostic Centre and Clinic in Karachi from where they were referred to SKMCH&RC in Lahore. This meant Waleed’s father would have to leave his job for an uncertain period of time, part from his other children, and take into account traveling cost in addition to treatment cost. As they travelled to SKMCH&RC in Lahore, he was holding his son close to his heart. He focused on the rhythm that seemed to be perfectly in sync with his own heartbeat—as if an extension of his own heart. At that moment, he knew if the little heart stops beating, his own heart would lose its rhythm forever. He redoubled his resolve to fight for his son.

As they reached the Hospital, a wave of relief washed over them. Waleed was not only accepted for treatment at SKMCH&RC but he was offered full financial support. At the Hospital, special care was taken to explain Waleed’s diagnosis to his parents. They were glad to know that the Hospital houses a play-room for paediatric patients to divert their attention from the treatment.  In addition, the Hospital’s schooling programme provides the opportunity to patients such as Waleed to continue with their school course work, if they wish. For one year, the Hospital was like a home to them where a multidisciplinary team worked dedicatedly to treat Waleed.

Waleed is a very brave boy who managed to defeat cancer thanks to the constant support from his family and the team at the Hospital. Today, he is back in Hyderabad with his siblings, whom he dearly missed during his treatment. He loves to play cricket and football with just anyone who is able to throw a ball. If you ask him about his favourite city from his traveling experience, he would tell you it is Karachi; not because of the landscape, but because of his favourite uncle and cousins who live there. At an early age, he has learned the importance of people when fighting a battle; it’s not the toys but the people around him who gave him the strength to continue the fight.  He is in Class 3 now and his father recalls with amusement that when he returned to school and the teacher asked the class to write a paragraph on ‘how did you spend your holiday’ he was the only student who could write “I beat cancer”.

Waleed Ahmed embodies the need for a specialized cancer centre in Sindh and he is an example that cancer is curable. On December 29, 2016, Waleed travelled with his father to the DHA City in Karachi to perform the groundbreaking of Pakistan’s third SKMCH&RC, an ideal location that is easily accessible for people belonging to the interior Sindh. His father’s heart swelled with pride as he witnessed the moment when his brave boy pushed the shovel into the ground—symbolizing the beginning of a new dawn of hope for people suffering from cancer in Sindh.