"Why are you wasting your life here in Nursing School? You don't have a future." the words still echo in my mind. I vividly remember the day that I was told by a disabled person, with all their abilities and conscience, that my resilience, courage, knowledge, and heartfelt passion towards Nursing school are not enough for me to graduate. Yet, here I am, a graduate of the full-time University of Sharjah, Bachelors in Nursing School, Batch of 2019.
I am Nada Ibrahim, and here is my story.
Nursing is my passion. From the moment I graduated from high school to my life in university at the Nursing School, I believed that my career path would be as I dream with all of my heart. But, life had exciting tricks up her sleeves.
I felt weaker with time, and a regular doctor visit was the go-to decision. Sitting with the Doctor, I used the medical words I knew from my knowledge, and almost by accident, I said, "Muscular Dystrophy." Muscular Dystrophy is the shrinking muscle cells when you do not use them enough and a genetic disorder that affects skeletal muscles. The Doctor proceeded with tests and confirmed that my diagnosis was correct. My tests confirmed positive for Muscular Dystrophy. At that moment, I looked at myself as an active girl with a dying body and shrinking muscle cells. I was a girl with infinite energy, but my body would not keep up with that energy with time.
On the evening of the diagnosis, my father entered my room to bring me a nighttime snack and found me sobbing like a child. With my thoughts scattered everywhere, as soon as he asked me, "What is wrong?" I replied promptly and abruptly with one sentence, "I am going to die."
With his beautiful heart and patience of a saint, he sat down next to me and confirmed that this was not going to happen. He reassured me that life would have many gifts for me in the upcoming years. And when that evening, my father and I slept peacefully, my mother woke up in the middle of the night. Anxious, she could not sleep. As I overheard her tensely asking many questions about the unpredictable future ahead, I thought about little kids who get more severe cases of Muscular Dystrophy. Children can be diagnosed with a case of Muscular Dystrophy called Duchene, which affects their respiratory system and heart, and can ultimately lead to unavoidable death. I thanked God for my privilege. I still had so much life in me and I promised myself that I would filter the information before spitting out my blunt emotions to my parents for all the years ahead. It was not fair to them, and they were doing everything to keep me calm.
So I woke up the next day, accepted my destiny, vowed only to perform good deeds every day, and decided to revisit the Doctor. When my parents asked the Doctor why he shared such raw information with the family suddenly, he told my parents that I had used the words "Muscular Dystrophy" myself, making the Doctor believe that I was already aware of the situation.
I was surprised at how I had unintentionally, accurately, made a self-diagnosis of something so unique and crucial. I decided to go ahead with genetic tests, and it turned out that I was confirmed to have a rare form called Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy or LGMD. Over the years, my muscles would keep getting weaker, leading to movement restriction, and there is only one thing I could do to lengthen my time: exercise. All these sudden revelations and the thought of an uncertain future ahead lead me to depression and panic attacks.
I thought, "How will I help everyone like I always do? What about my dreams of changing the nursing field and making a difference?! How am I supposed to do anything when all that I did was hate myself and the future? Not living my present nor for tomorrow, oh, how much I despised the "Tomorrow" so dreadful and frightful that I wanted to die young and never grow up."
I even avoided my friends till one day, sitting in the car, my best friend Vili, a fantastic person, promised that she would help me go to the bathroom if I ever needed her support. But life goes on, and Vili eventually had to move away from the city. On the day Vili moved out, I was incredibly sad. By this time, I had also begun swimming classes, and on the day, I had made it to the class half-heartedly.
I still remember the sound of hope when one of my coaches rushed towards me, almost shrieking with excitement, she said, "Nurseeeeee! Listen, I registered with you in the swimming. It will be in May!"
Surprised, I stared at her wide-eyed. I said, "ME?! Are you okay?! I have nothing to do with competitions!"
She held me by my shoulders and said, "I believe in you. You can do it. It's only 500 meters."
"Huh? What do you mean by only? I can barely do one 50m lap!" I responded.
But my disbelief did not waiver her, and her persuasiveness convinced me. Since she believed in me so much, I decided to take a chance on myself. I practiced hard. And when that competition happened, I completed 28 laps in one go within 25 minutes! It may seem familiar to a regular athlete, but to me, that was a massive achievement.
As I made my way to the swimming competition's finale, I learned that I had finally accepted myself. I entirely took this as my new normal, and over the years, my determination and strength had only grown. When you want to do and give so much positivity to the world, and your body's energy does not cope up in the slightest, the hollowness that strikes you is a feeling I could not put in words to date. But, with this competition and this win, I knew I was never going to give up on my dream.
I realized that people tend to put limitations on your abilities, but it's their limited perceptions. Regardless of all the disorders, I had, having a positive mentality helped me realize my potential and love my own new over-demanding body. I still recall the conversation I had with my new Doctor, who had done my genetic test.
Along the way, Humor built her traditional path into my life. Humor became a companion, a go-to place of comfort, a bright ray of sunshine in dull times. When my worried Doctor told me that my kidney was rare, all conditions complex, and my Muscular Dystrophy one of the only three cases present in the world, I looked at the Doctor with joy, a beaming cheek-to-cheek grin. I exclaimed, "So, are you saying I am really special!?". The Doctor stared back at me - half-amused and in pure bewilderment. Little can I tell other people; life has shown me many ups and downs, and now I have built an immunity to unexpected news, and laughter is the cure to many of my painful moments.
Today, I am adamant about becoming the first Nurse who is a female Person of Determination in the UAE. I genuinely hope that the Ministry of Health in the UAE will help me because Seated Nurses have many success stories who pursued their passion and resiliently succeeded in their careers. I spoke to courage to many large audiences as part of the University of Sharjah Explore program, and the support of my family uplifted me in extraordinary ways.
The world can accommodate People of Determination, as long as we do not give up. I witnessed that at the University of Sharjah, when the Nursing professors customized classes towards inclusive learning. I observed inclusion in my nursing education training. I welcomed accessibility accommodations from my family, friends, and even my class fellows. I believe in an inclusive world. And I was the only Person of Determination who graduated from the University of Sharjah in Fall 2019 with a Bachelor's in Nursing.
All of us face various challenges in life. It is the way we choose to perceive a challenging situation. We can celebrate the journey and embrace it instead of picturing a problem as an end. We can live our experiences whole-heartedly. We can enjoy the progress we make day-by-day and the beautiful gift of life. And we can leave it to God to align things for us with faith that everything will work out. We must learn to never give up on ourselves, to love, and care for ourselves, and believe that "Tomorrow" is always a potential of great things.
My journey is already an achievement, but reread the title of this story. I know in my heart that someday this will be true. I aim to be the first-ever Seated Nurse in the UAE, and I know that I will achieve all of my ambitions as a person with real determination.