By FATIMA PATEL
The figures are grim as the UK has now lost more than 33,000 people to the deadly covid-19 virus and the numbers continue to increase each day.
The victims are mums, dads, grandads, grandmas, brothers, sisters, friends, husbands, wives, children, cousins and more. With ages ranging from five to over 100 and many of them brave NHS workers who died treating the sick.
It is a blunt and hard reminder of how precious life is.
To really understand the impact of Covid-19 we heard the heart-breaking account of a son who lost his father and how within a space of a month he almost lost his brother to the deadly Covid-19 disease too.
Faisal Khan is a popular Business Relationship Manager for NatWest Bank and is a pillar of the British Pakistani community actively fundraising for needy causes.
He lives in Bradford with his wife and twins. With courage Faisal spoke exclusively to Asian Sunday to share his account of what it has been like to lose a father to Covid-19 and to have a brother return from deaths door to the pandemic.
“My father was 71 years of age, he was retired and suffered from type 2 diabetes and had an angioplasty. He used to go out for shopping and had the keys for our local mosque and would enjoy going there to pray in congregation.” Said Faisal
“But then when news of this pandemic was announced, we stopped him from going out. The final piece for us really was when two of my father’s friends died, and he became really ill thereafter.”
Faisal is the eldest with three siblings – his brothers Khurram and Omar, and sister Mariyah who is the youngest from them.
The family reside in Bradford and are a very sociable and close-knit family. The Khan’s have had a painful month going through a roller coaster of emotions, grieving for their father, but also staying strong for their brother.
Faisal told Asian Sunday what a challenging month it has been for him: “It’s been the toughest month of our lives and I want to let people know what we have gone through, so that it might help them and hopefully they will get strength too and cope with this pandemic.
The father of twins confessed that when his father became severely ill, he and his brothers did visit him.
“We know we may have broken the rules of lockdown, but he is our father and he was severely ill, how could we not go visit him”
Faisal’s father died peacefully at home on the morning of 9 April to covid-19.
The funeral was conducted with just ten people, but thanks to a page on social media called the Janaza Announcement relatives and friends were able to participate in the funeral virtually.
Sadly, tragedy was not over for Faisal and his family, as days later second eldest -Khurram, started getting a temperature and was coughing.
His symptoms became severe within days and his wife had to call for an ambulance.
Khurram was immediately taken to ICU.
“We had just passed ten days of grieving for dad and then we find out brother has been taken in and put on ventilators. It was all getting a bit too much.” Said the bank manager
“My immediate thought was for my mother who just lost her husband and now the thought of losing her son – As the eldest I had to be strong for her and my siblings.
“However, just when I thought I could handle this, three days later at 3am in the morning, I received a call from my sister in law.
“Her voice was panic stricken and emotional. She informed me that Khurram’s oxygen had been reduced and the hospital had to intervene by putting him into an induced coma”
The strong professional recalls how he too almost broke down, if it was not for his wif
e, who kept him strong and told him to stay positive and with assurance that Khurram will pull through.
“I decided that day to have faith in the Almighty and I kept my first fast and prayed and asked all my network to pray for my brother”
The next few days, messages started circulating across social media and WhatsApp messages to pray for Khurram, which went global resulting in prayers flooding in from all corners of the world, including from their close family friends the Dutt family, who are Christian Pakistani’s.
Faisal’s family are Muslim and share an awfully close bond with the Dutt’s. This unity of faith is what he believes has been an enormously powerful and positive force in assisting with Khurram’s recovery.
“It’s hard to stay positive, but prayer and belief in the Almighty helps.” Faisal affirmed
Prayers seem to have started to be answered as a few days later the hospital got in touch to invite a family member to visit Khurram in hospital.
As the eldest of the family Faisal was chosen to visit Khurram in hospital.
“There were a million things going on in my head, as I was the only one allowed, I was thinking is my brother about to die!” He said.
Faisal describes his visit to the hospital as surreal. He told Asian Sunday he was told the night before to have a clean shave and was given a time slot to visit.
On his arrival he found the hospital unusually quiet and was taken into a room where there were nurses and a councilor.
He was asked how family were coping and if they needed any support. He was then told what to expect when he goes in to see his brother. There was also a video that he was supposed to watch, but it was not playing at the time, so he did not get to watch it.
Following this process, Faisal was led downstairs and dressed into PPE. Faisal had not seen his brother in more than ten days and the thought of his brother possibly dying was just about sinking in.
Faisal was led into a cubicle by two nurses where he found Khurram knocked out in an induced coma lying flat on his tummy.
“He had every machine connected to him – I was emotional inside, but on the outside, I was doing my best to be strong” Said the father of two.
Every visitor is allowed 30 minutes with the patient. Faisal spent most of this time talking to the nurses, who told him that Khurram was 90 per cent reliant on his ventilator and so anything is possible. Elder brother was encouraged to talk to Khurram as it is good for coma patients to hear a familiar voice.
Faisal told his brother: “Dad has gone, and we have to stay together now as a family – I need you with me. Don’t you leave us.”
“Dad has gone, and we have to stay together now as a family – I need you with me. Don’t you leave us.”
After his visit Faisal went home, where his wife asked him how the visit was, and he simply could not get his words out.
“When you see your brother’s kids, they have this positive energy that dada is going to come home, and I couldn’t look them in the eye to say he might not.”
Fortunately, the positivity of the children and many others worked and Khurram did come out of his coma.
During this time, it has not been easy for Faisal and his family to stay positive about Khurram surviving covid-19.
Rumours have been rife, particularly within the South Asian community not to send family members to hospital as it’s claimed that the higher death rate among black, Asian and other ethnic minority patients is because they are being killed off by the very hospital staff meant to help them.
Faisal dismissed these rumours immediately.
“I too got told this by a few people. He said
“They said now that my brother is in hospital then there is no hope, you may as well start planning his funeral, but the hospital couldn’t do enough and my family and I are ever so grateful for all that they did during these testing times”
There were plans in place to get the best treatment available for Khurram had he not come out of his coma. Faisal told Asian Sunday about the Ecmo treatment, which only 5 hospitals in the whole of the UK have access to along with looking at treatments from successful trials done overseas. So Khurram’s name was down for many other trials which showed he was getting the best care, and this gave the family many assurances.
Luckily, these treatments were not needed as Khurram came out of his coma at which point Faisal was invited to visit Khurram in hospital again.
This time Faisal met Khurram sat in a chair, still with all his PPE and all the machines connected to him, but in happier spirits.
“As I go to hospital the nurses told me he is looking forward to seeing you and is going to punch you. I laughed knowing that that is the Khurram I know.
“As I walked in and Khurram saw me he burst into tears. He had not seen me or any family, for more than two weeks. I asked him what he remembers from when he was in a coma.
“He told me he was with our late father. He saw himself and my late father holding hands and walking on this long road. Dad was also holding a mithai box as he loved mithai’s. They were both dressed in white and had white prayer caps on. They were not alone though, there were these men in black guiding them. They walked until they got to this beautiful place. On arrival my father found a bench and said to my brother: “I’m happy with this place, so I am going to stay here, but you need to go now as it’s not your time.” Dad let go of my brother’s hand and the men dressed in black guided my brother away”
“while my brother was in a coma, he told me he was with my late father, who told him to return to us”
It surely was an emotional moment.
In no time Faisal then had the whole family on a video call who were all excited and brimming with positivity. Nurses and doctors had also gathered around sharing this positivity.
“Nineth May, exactly a month from when my father left us was when my brother was discharged and like we clap for the NHS every Thursday, they clapped for my brother as he left hospital. I can’t thank the NHS enough and people really need to stop believing all the negative stories about them.”
Khurram is delighted to be reunited with his family and is recovering well at home. He celebrated his birthday on 11 May, with a video message from loved ones across the globe.
Faisal concludes that the whole journey has been emotional, heart-breaking, and often challenging trying to stay positive when there is so much negativity out there, however he believes there was a reason for all this.
“God does things that we don’t understand” He said.
“Maybe this experience was to bring us all even closer together and to appreciate each other more. I think now is a new era and to press the reset button – it really makes you realise just how precious life really is – that’s the reminder from God”