A Day of Miracles

Thursday March 8th, 8pm, Toronto General Hospital. My Dad, my brother Shayne, and I were crouched around my Mum’s hospital bed in the Emergency Room, reciting our evening prayers together. The mood behind curtain #15 was sombre and still – a change from our normal Premji positivity – interrupted only by muffled cries of sadness.  The doctors had said there was a nearly 50% chance that my Mum would not make it through the night.  And for the first time since hearing about the cancer diagnosis, I realized that this may be the day I would lose my Mommy.

Rewind 7 hours.

We arrived at Princess Margaret Hospital for an appointment with our oncologist, Dr. Tiedemann, and a pre-chemotherapy class.  And just because my Mum had been feeling weak for the past few days, she insisted she get her blood levels checked.  Dr. Tiedemann confirmed the diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma and Lymphoma based on results from a second bone marrow test and a PET scan and suggested chemotherapy start the next morning.  But ironically, in that moment, cancer took a backseat and the focus became her hemoglobin of 42.

To put this into context, the average person on the street operates at a hemoglobin level of 120-140, and anything under 50 is considered life-threatening. Given the urgency of the situation, she was taken by ambulance across the street to Toronto General Hospital but upon preparation for a blood transfusion, test results showed her red blood cells were ‘bursting’ due to what was believed to be an army of antibodies she had built up in response to the initial 2 blood transfusions in January and February.  And her normal red blood cells were getting killed in the crossfire.

Mum’s an antibody-maker – her body makes antibodies to fight off any foreign substance that comes in contact with her.  It’s probably why she has never been significantly sick before, but these antibodies were proving to be detrimental to this situation.

She needed blood and needed it fast – but an imperfect blood match would have caused her immune system to attack the new blood, turning her own red blood cells into innocent casualties of this war.  But if we waited the 6-8 hours needed to find a perfect blood match, Mum’s hemoglobin could have dropped even further, putting her at a significant risk of organ failure.  We were balancing between the needs of Emergency Medicine to transfuse blood immediately, and Hematology to transfuse the right blood.  At 8:00pm her hemoglobin had dropped to 36.  They rushed her to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) – pale-faced, oxygen mask, machines beeping.

Just as we were beginning to lose hope, we received word that four units of a well-matched blood had been found.  A miracle beyond measure.  While our faith was being tested, a team of Hematologists led by Dr. Christine Cserti, were working hard in the blood bank to find the perfect blood match. It’s almost like while we were questioning God’s plans, God was busy in the blood bank saying “Guys, it’s okay, I got this”.

The four bags of blood were our last hope – we asked the ICU doctors what the plan was if the blood didn’t work, and were told “steroids until we figure out what to do.” With a risky Plan A and no Plan B, we focused our energy on befriending the blood, giving them the names of Mr. Bean, Dexter, Edward Cullen and Popat, respectively.   We sat beside her, hearts racing, tears rolling, prayers abounding as we watched those first drops of blood make their way into her body. Drip, drip, drip.  If her body was going to reject the blood, we would know within the first few minutes.  A nurse was by her side monitoring every vital sign.  I have never been more scared.  And we have never prayed harder.  I am not entirely certain whether it was the steroids or a dose of romance in Mr. Bean’s blood, but as the new blood seeped through her veins, Mum began to serenade my Dad with the love song, “Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps”.

4 hours later, Mr. Bean went through successfully – but we were not out of the woods yet.  Since each of the four units were given by four different people, it was possible Mum’s body could reject any one of those four bags.  We watched  Dexter, then Edward Cullen, go through — next blood reading:  a 51!  Great sign.  It was the Popat Power of the last bag of blood that pushed her hemoglobin to 91 by 1pm on Friday afternoon.  Let it be known that Shayne has decided to name his first-born son Popat in honour of this miracle. Mum was released from ICU into the General Ward the following day and was released on Sunday afternoon when her hemoglobin levels had remained stable.

Thursday March 8th was one of the scariest days of my life.  But it was also a day where I have never been more grateful.  Miracle #1 – Mum could have collapsed at any point that week and would have had to be rushed to our closest hospital, North York General, and infused with unmatched blood.  Given her status as an “antibody-maker”, her body would have rejected the blood and she would not have survived.   But instead, her low hemoglobin was caught by an unplanned blood test and acute hyper hemolytic anemia was detected before it was too late to do something about it.  Miracle #2 – When the test results came back on Thursday confirming an aggressive, late stage Lymphoma, the oncologist wrote up a prescription to start chemotherapy the following day.  But by the time the nurse called the chemo daycare unit, it was 5 minutes after it closed, and instead had to schedule the first chemo session for Monday.  If Mum had started chemo with a hemoglobin of 42 (because a week prior it was 90 and she was cleared for chemo), her body would not have been strong enough to take the toxic drugs and she would not have survived. Miracle #3 – 4 different blood donors with the exact antibodies to combat Mum’s Y and C-antibodies found within 30 minutes.  Generally, this takes 6-8 hours as the blood bank has to screen for 20 different variables.  We owe our gratitude to Dr. Cserti and her team for working non-stop until they found the right blood.

That night, I began to lose faith. But it was in those moments of despair, that I witnessed firsthand the power of prayer, the power of holding on, the power of giving it everything you’ve got.  I have a renewed sense of faith that someone pretty powerful is on my Mum’s side and that these cancers stand absolutely no chance against the strength and courage of Munira Premji.

– Sabrina

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24 thoughts on “A Day of Miracles”

  1. Thank you for sharing this. Our Mukhianimaa is very brave and with support of the family and friends and everyone’s prayers it will work out. You are in our prayers and wish you success in the upcoming appointment on April 2nd.
    My prayers for success in all your treatments and a very speedy recovery. May Mowla give you strength and courage to go through the treatments and come out with flying colors. Look forward to seeing you soon.

    With love and prayers
    Rosemin

  2. Thank you so much for reminding us of faith, courage and the improtance of family. This Blogg also reminded me of why we healthcare professionals do what we do…to support the power of prayer and that beyond all the jargon, lab coats and test there are real people that need help!

    we love you lots!

  3. Munira
    Your humility and also that of Nagib has touched me profoundly.
    Your constant smile that you carry with you at all times is a reminder
    to all of us as to the warmth in your heart.
    I remember so well Chandrat of Nov.2011
    Willowdale Khane
    I was standing in the outside lobby after prayers
    I felt a hand on my shoulder
    Turned back..only to see your smiling face
    With great humility and sincerity you complimented
    on how well i said “Awal Sufro”
    You words deeply touched me,Mukhianima.
    I Shall so remember you again on March 23.2012 on
    Chandrat and Beej as I am blessed with the same duty.
    My prayers are that I will see you again with the same
    smile,dignity and humility that you carry so well.
    Pray that you may get well soon..very soon.
    Shiraz

  4. Sabrina,

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful story! Certainly the power of prayer,power of love & power of togetherness! God bless Mom and god be with you all at all times. Sending you warm hugs and love,

    Rashida Kanji

  5. Sabrina,
    Thanks for sharing the story with us. Our prayers are with her, take care n be blessed.
    Keep us posted.

    Bina

  6. Mukhiani Sahebha,

    Hazar Imam is not testing you or your family. He is always with you. When a mother has any problems, she normally shares these with the one child that she loves most and knows that that child will take on her troubles on her shoulders and will help her through all this. Hazar Imam is both our mother and father. In a very small way (but in a very large way for you) you are taking on some of Hazar Imam’s problems through this great courage of yours. Hazar Imam knows your faith in Him and He will never let you down. Most people will not agree with me, but this is what my mother had instilled in me and I will never forget the faith and immense love that my mother had in Hazar Imam. Today she is no longer with us, but not a single day goes by that I do not remember her and her sayings about our beloved Imams. My prayers are with you and Mukhisaheb, Sabrina & Shayne. Ya Ali Madad.

  7. Sabrina

    Our prayers and support are always with you. Thank you so much for sharing with us what your mom went thru. Your mom is a very very special person and we all love her. Her smile, friendlyness, loving Muni. Mowla will always look after her and all of you. Prayers are the most important in our lives. Mowla says, “remember me” “Call me” and I will be there.
    Hang in there, your mom will be fine. We miss you all very much.
    With love and lots of prayers from
    Yasmin Aunty, Shiraz Uncle, Ali and Azmina Alibhai

  8. Dear Sabrina, Shayne and Munira,
    I just found out and our prayers are with you. Inshallah, your mom will fight it and she will get better by the grace of Allah.
    Hang in there.
    May Allah give you strength in this difficult time.
    Love Jasmine, Zane, Azhar and Shamira.

  9. Something about you that I truly admire,
    Words from your mouth often inspire.
    Glass is half-full, you clearly see,
    Your positivity brings joy to me.
    You’re a combination of special and rare,
    So many talents, with the world you may share.
    Just the way you make others feel,
    Is so wonderful, it’s simply so real.
    Wherever you go, whatever you seek,
    I know you will conquer, no matter the peak.
    By the look in your eyes, I can sense your drive,
    I’m so happy, I know you will thrive.

    Alisha Khatau-Noormohamed

    Our deepest deepest thoughts & prayers are with you and your family!

    1. Wow! What beautiful, inspiring words Alisha! You are a beautiful poet. I am completely in awe of what you wrote. Got to find a way to leverage your gift with words………….I am so inspired! Munira

  10. Sabrina, Mukhianima:

    May Allah be with all of you at home and, Mukhianima at all times and give her lots of courage to face this difficulty. Insha Allah, she will be well soon.

    Yasmin Jamal

  11. Dear Sabrina. You do not know me as I am not a regular Willowdale JK attendee (I am usually at Unionville JK) but I have a very deep understanding of what you are going through. My mom was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer last year. She underwent a hysterectomy and 6 rounds of chemo. When that 6th chemotherapy session finished my dad, brother myself and especially my mom were on cloud nine – we had finally crossed over this hurdle and kicked that cancer in the butt. However, less than 2 months later we discovered that my mom’s cancer had returned and had come back with great force. Her cancer was now in the spine and was basically eating at her spinal vertebrae. Recently we also discovered that it has moved to other sites as well (shoulder and knee). I completely understand the fear, uncertainty, and test of faith that you are experiencing. Many times in the last few months I questioned that why….why again and why something that is so serious and so painful. However Mawla shows his miracle and his grace in many ways….and then I feel bad that I am questioning him at all. He is there and he is absolutely looking out for both of our moms. When my mom was initially diagnosed with cancer, I thought there couldn’t be anything worse. However when I see what she is going through now that initial time was a walk in the park. However I am sure things can be a lot more worse so I have learned to say Shukar Mawla….Shukar for the help that you are giving, Shukar for the strength you are giving, Shukar for the wonderful doctors that you are providing and Shukar for just be there and holding our hands through this difficult time. I say special prayers for my mom daily that the burden of her difficulties be eased. I will now add your mom to those prayers as well. Inshahallah everything will be ok. God can make anything….ANYTHING possible:):):).
    I pray that God give you and your family lots of strength and always keep your faith in him strong…Ameen.

  12. Thank you for sharing your emotions, feelings and experiences with us – this helps us to be a part of what the premji family is going through and it allows us to join you in the prayers for Mukhianima’s health and cure. We are sure that Munira will not only fight this battle she will be an inspiration and certainly she will be helping and supporting others in a similar situation soon. Our prayers are for you all.

  13. Munira _ sabrina. U don’t know me _idont know u. Sabrina’s story is heart-touching. My sincere prayers and good thoughs are with you. Keep in touch -. Allah be with you.
    Munira be strong and positive.

  14. Yes, yes, someone very powerful is watching over her. You just believe that everything will turn out right. We all believe that. Our prayers are with you and He is listening to our prayers.
    Farida

  15. Dear Sabrina,

    Mowla is always watching out for all of us, at this very moment he is holding your hands and giving you and your family the strenght and courage to fight this! Inshallah everything will go smooth. You are in our prayers! Ameen.

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