I wouldn’t be here, if not for a twist of fate that kept my father alive.
Posted in , Jun 18, 2015
I turned 33 this year, the same age my dad was when I was born—a fact my parents made sure to mention at my birthday dinner, almost as if they were hinting at something. I don’t have any kids on the way yet, but I feel like I’m as ready as I can be for the miracle of fatherhood. I’ve grown up with a pretty good model for what a father should be.
My dad always encouraged me to be my best self, explore the world, have faith in things felt but not seen, all of which helped make me who I am today. But he almost never got to be a father at all. One year before my older sister was born, he nearly lost his life.
He was 27. For several months, he’d been having recurring stomach pains, cramps that would leave him in agony for several hours at a time. His doctor couldn’t find anything wrong—just a stomach ache, something my dad ate probably.
My dad was an athlete, a former track star and weightlifter, so he knew how to handle pain. Convinced it was nothing serious, whenever the pain flared up, he just grimaced through it until it was over.
My mom and dad were visiting his parents in Englewood, New Jersey when the cramps struck again. This time, they didn’t fade away. Overnight, my dad developed a high fever—105 degrees. My grandparents rushed him to a nearby hospital. As my dad tells the story, “I knew I was dying.”
The doctors in the ER were confused. My dad’s symptoms seemed consistent with appendicitis—except the pain wasn’t localized to the lower right quadrant of his torso, where the appendix is located.
While they debated what to do, a 33-year-old surgeon named Dr. Ibrahim Ibrahim, spoke up. “It must be a retrocecal appendix,” he said, on little more than a hunch. My dad’s appendix, Dr. Ibrahim guessed, was in the wrong place—a rare condition.
Dr. Ibrahim turned out to be correct. My dad was wheeled into surgery and his appendix was removed just before it could burst and cause a deadly infection.
What if my father hadn’t been in Englewood that day? What if young Dr. Ibrahim hadn’t been there to point out what the older and more experienced doctors hadn’t considered? My dad has long asked himself those questions. He was in the right place at the right time, and it saved his life. Mine and my sisters’ lives too.
I’m grateful for Dr. Ibrahim, still practicing today at age 73, and for the power that brought him to my father’s side that fateful day.