Hypoxic Hours. non-fiction by Anjum Wasim Dar

Anjum Wasir Dar

Hypoxic Hours

“Mama, do you know what happened to you, a few minutes ago ?”
Speechless and numb, I stared at my elder daughter Sara. Her  pale face, reflected grave concern. Something had happened, for I felt my clothes were wet. I was sitting on the edge of the bed, in a daze, my mind foggy. I didn’t answer as I couldn’t speak. I just saw my daughter’s face, white as a sheet. I noticed that she was perched on the stool beside the bed, and was bending a little towards me.
I was thoughtless, unconscious of the time. In the small hours of the night, a severe cramp in my left leg woke me up. A loud cry of pain sent my daughter running to my room.
“What happened to me Sara?” My mind totally blank.
“When I entered the room, you were lying on your right side, with your hand on your left leg. I helped you and tried to straighten your leg. You managed to sit up, but the next moment you fell back on the bed, and became unconscious”.
“Ya Allah khair! Then, how did you manage? What did you do?”
“Mama Ji, I  did what I knew must be done in such emergencies.”
“Oh, my precious daughter, you just saved my life.”
Sara continued slowly, “I turned you quickly on the side, rubbed your back, patted it hard a number of times, for it seemed as if something was choking you. Your eyes were open but lifeless. Mama, it seemed you were having a fit and  gasping.”

As she spoke I could see how she was trying her best not to burst into tears. “I don’t remember, nor have any feeling about all this. I think I have fever,” I managed to say. “Help me now.”
The clothes and bed sheets changed, I tried to lie down but severe dizziness prevented it. “Give my back some support, dear. I can’t bend my head”.

Time seemed to stop. Then the Muezzin’s call for the pre-dawn prayer broke the intense silence. We both realized that the Angel of Death had paid an unexpected brief but pointed visit.

Dawn broke with a bright ray of hope.

“Mama try to rest. We’ll take you to the hospital at 11 o’clock. Why brother keeps avoiding vaccination, I fail to understand.”

Sara’s remark touched my memory and I heard my father’s often-stated words, “My son is my son till he gets him a wife. My daughter is my daughter all my life.” Father was not blessed with a son, but the Lord gave him four daughters.

I had no cough, but nausea set in from time to time. Passing through November 2021, Covid-19 attacks continued. Just a year ago they had taken away Salman, Sara’s husband. We could only pray and hope for mercy. The whole world was struggling.
“A tissue, a tissue, we all fall down.” Strangely, I heard  this line from the famous nursery rhyme, “Ring Around the Rosie,” which we used to sing in school in the kindergarten years.
“Mama, are you alright?” My daughter was instantly alert. She thought that another fit had been triggered.

“Sara, please hold my head for a while, it may stop spinning.”
“Were you trying to say something Mama?”
“No, no, not really,” I was again surprised at myself. This was no time to sing a nursery rhyme, nor a time to hum even. I felt extremely exhausted. My body ached all over.  Severe pain cut through the ribs as if someone was hammering them from both sides. “If I had a hammer, I’d hammer out a warning, I’d hammer out danger.” Oh Dear, first it was the “ring a ring of roses,” and now this. Some spirit is definitely trying to keep me calm. Why are songs and rhyme lyrics coming to mind, including Shakespearean dramatic poetry: “The winds did sing to me, pain pain, go away, away, go thy way.”
“Mama are you ready to go? Here, put on the mask, and let’s go.” My daughter’s voice broke the deeply painful but slightly musical trance. Something must have happened to my brain when I collapsed. Childhood musical chords were chiming in the cranium layers.

A sense of light movement prevailed as Sara drove the car cautiously. With my mind foggy and my vision blurred, I tried to keep my head straight.  I noticed that most of the people were not wearing masks. Covid-19 had not spared any corner of the planet. Many said  it was God’s wrath; many said “karma,” as humanity had gone astray, become ill mannered, selfish and ignorant. It was divine punishment. There were many theories circulating.

We reached the Diagnostic Center, and the Covid-19 test was conducted while I remained seated in the car. The result was positive.
Strangely, the rhyme “Ring Around the Rosie” surfaced again. Raging for two years, the Covid-19 virus had turned into a global pandemic. Compared with the Spanish Flu, it was no wonder that it was a reminder for me of the Black Death. My love for the history of English literature had been deeply stirred. Covid-19 would later be referred to as the hypoxic pandemic.

You have to be brave and strong for your daughter. It was my heart’s voice. The virus raced right up to the brain. I tried to block the attack, but it slipped by and pinched the childhood memory portion. The nursery rhymes are sounding to restore your strength and protect you. You are one of the best kindergarten teachers. You kept the young learners  happy by singing to them and with them. You will shine forever. Twinkle on, and don’t wonder who you are, for you are a bright, glittering star. My worried and grieving heart was trying to comfort me.

We reached the hospital. As the car stopped, an attendant with a wheelchair opened the car door, and within a few minutes we had reached the waiting room next to the doctor’s office. My daughter answered questions about my medical history, symptoms and complaints. The file was ready for the specialist. He listened attentively, writing his notes with great skill and speed. In between, I heard him say, “criminal.” Then I was wheeled up to his table. He peered at me, smiled a bit, then assured me, “We shall give you the best treatment we have. You will be fine Insha allah. Your x-ray shows the enemy lurking in the lungs, but it hasn’ gone far. We shall catch it and kill it.”

I was wheeled back to the large waiting couch. A lady nurse approached, drew the curtain, rolled the drip stand closer, and asked, “Which side is comfortable?” I stretched out my right arm. Luckily the needle went straight into the vein and the cannula was set.                                   Antibiotics and anti-viral meds were soon mixing with my blood. My war against Covid-19 had begun.
“I heard the word ‘criminal.’ What was the doctor referring to Sara?”

Sara said, “Mama! He said, “It was criminal, NOT to get vaccinated.”
“Oh I see. What did he explain about me.”

“Mama, he said it was a seizure, a rare reaction to the Covid infection, and that we shall defeat the virus with the Mercy of the Almighty. This combination of antibiotic, anti-viral and steroids has cured many.”

It was intravenous antibiotic for a week, then tablets for a month, chest X-rays to be repeated after a week, and then I was able to go home.

Oh, home, what a blessing.
For many days Sara was my constant companion. She had seen her husband fight the fever, bear the cough, the painful restlessness — until he was put on the ventilator, until he was no more. When his body was being lowered in the grave, light rain fell. How brave she had been during this trial. Only she knew in her heart and soul.

“It was all the Lord’s blessing, His help and love.” She later said. Her silent prayer: “Please Allah ji. Make my parents well soon, amen”.

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Anjum Wasim Dar is a Kashmir, Migrant Pakistani. Educated at St Anne’s Presentation Convent Rawalpindi. MA in English Literature & American Studies. CPE Certificate of Proficiency in English Cambridge UK British Council LSE.

Writing poems, articles and stories since 1980. Published Poet. Won Poet of Merit Bronze Medal Semi Final International Award 2000 USA. Worked as Creative Writer Teacher Trainer. Educational Consultant by Profession. Freelance Writer.


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Published by darcie friesen hossack

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance, was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LaCrete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightening), Darcie is now completing her first novel where, for a family with a Seventh-day Adventist father and a Mennonite mother, the End Times are just around the corner. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, international award-winning chef, Dean Hossack.

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