My Mother, Sikina

Allow me to tell you a story of a very special, tough and courageous 84-year-old lady. Her name is Sikina. She recently spent five weeks in Foothills Hospital for removal of a 6-cm. benign brain tumour. The tumour had left her partially paralysed.

Sikina was born in India. At a very tender age of 15 she married a young handsome fellow named Hussein who was 21. At the age of 13, Hussein had gone to East Africa with his older brother to look for work. After eight years of work and making some money, he had returned to India to look for a bride. That is when he was introduced to Sikina and got married.

Hussein and Sikina lived in East Africa for many years. They had eight children. One day, in 1965, Sikina was travelling from Tanzania to Uganda when her car was involved in a head on collision with a drunk driver. She sustained life-threatening injuries to head, face, right thigh and both upper limbs. There were many broken bones.

Sikina never gave up. With Hussein at his bedside, she fought back and survived. She spent four months in a hospital in Kampala, Uganda. She came home to Tanzania walking with crutches. Another two months of physiotherapy and she was back taking care of her family.

With Idi Amin (does anybody remember him?) in Uganda, the political atmosphere in East Africa became very uncertain. So, 25 years ago, Hussein, Sikina and their children moved to Calgary.

Five years later, Sikina developed right-sided weakness. She was found to have a brain tumour close to a large blood vessel. Two neurosurgeons in Calgary felt that nothing should be done, as there was a significant risk of damaging the blood vessel during surgery.

Hussein wasn’t a man to give up easily. As Sikina’s condition worsened, Hussein insisted on another opinion. The third neurosurgeon, after considerable deliberation and consultation with his colleagues at the General Hospital, elected to do the surgery. This was in 1980. Sikina and her family were warned of the likely complications. But Sikina was ready for it, as she could not live the way she felt.

Sikina survived the six-hour surgery. She had a full recovery. Eighty percent of the tumour was removed. Luckily it was benign. Tumour close to the blood vessel was left behind.

After many years of good health, Sikina’s troubles started again. Her right leg was getting weaker. Then six weeks ago, she momentarily lost her speech and function on the right side of her body. She was thought to have a stroke and rushed to Foothills Hospital. Investigations revealed recurrence of a large tumour at the site of previous excision.

Within a week, she was back in the operating room undergoing another six hours of brain surgery. This time the recovery was slow. She was in the hospital for five weeks. But she did not give up!

Now she is home looking better and walking with a walker. Another courageous fight and a miraculous recovery! This time Hussein wasn’t there. He passed away nine years ago. But all her children and their families were there. So were the neurosurgeons, anaesthetist, geriatrician, nursing staff and physiotherapists. It was an excellent teamwork.

Sikina believes in God and miracles. But one thing stands out – Sikina’s courage. I am proud of her. She is a special lady. And she is my mother!

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