Bushra’s mother finds herself in an agonising situation as her daughter’s life is put on the line. Here is how you can help.
After an invigorating swimming lesson, Bushra texts her coach “thank you” to show her appreciation for the one thing she looks forward to every week. Though the lesson may seem like a normal everyday event to some, it is rather special to the 35-year-old, who suffers from cerebral palsy.
The text was sent with the only movement she has left in her body, her fingers.
Bushra Dia was born 10 weeks premature into a family of three: her loving mother, father and older sister. Due to oxygen deprivation and other complications from her early delivery, Bushra developed cerebral palsy that renders her wheelchair-bound for life.
Her mother, Wafa Ahmed, raised her with everything she has.
Every day, Wafa spends most of her time making sure Bushra’s needs are all met, from feeding her all her meals to spending some quality mother-daughter bonding time.
Bushra and her parents initially came to Qatar with the Foreign Service when she was 15 years old. Her father, an ex-diplomat for Senegal, found everything he deemed necessary for his family right here in Doha: quality of life, adequate healthcare and disability facilities to help his daughter lead a good life.
As she got older, her disease gradually loosened her control over her movement, making it more challenging for her family to care for her. The facilities in Doha, however, helped the family give her the best life she could receive.
Relief in swimming
Using the only movement she has in her body, Bushra messaged Kathleen Bates, Qatar Foundation’s ability-friendly swimming programme manager, on Facebook asking her if she could teach her how to swim. To her, being in the water was nothing short of a dream.
“The first day Bushra’s parents brought her, they came to the pool and left her in the car. When I asked them where she was, they said, “She is in the car in a wheelchair and is unable to move”,” Bates told Doha News.
“They asked me what I was going to do with her and when I responded that Jojo and I were going to teach her to swim, they looked at me like I was completely crazy. They were standing very anxiously, but the moment Bushra was in the water, she had the biggest smile.”
Since then, Bushra has been taking weekly classes with Kathleen under Qatar Foundation’s Ability Friendly Programme, after she won the Qader Award which is designed to help community members participate in swimming or football sessions designated for people with special needs and disabilities. People who are granted this award get to enroll in one of the programmes for free, for a full academic year.
The 60 minutes-swimming classes a week, her mother explains, is what Bushra looks forward to most. “It is so much more than swimming for her; it is her joy,” Wafa said.
“Bushra told me that she wants to be in the water when she dies because that is the only place she feels at peace. She does not feel pain in the water, and it’s her only break from the wheelchair,” Kathleen said.
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The struggle for survival
Less than a decade after the family settled in Doha, Bushra’s father was called back to Senegal after his term ended. He was then met with a hard decision; Dia could either go back to Senegal or resign and take a lower-paying job in Qatar.
He knew Bushra’s well-being is to be put first.
Despite their sacrifice, the family were hit by another major challenge that left them in great struggle, worrying whether they will have a roof over their heads the next day.
“A couple of years back her father was diagnosed with cancer and started undergoing chemotherapy treatments. I’d wake up and take either her father or Bushra and spend all day in the hospital, all by myself,” Wafa told Doha News.
For years, Dia continued to work because “not working was not a choice” in order to afford Bushra’s expenses. When he hit 70 years of age, however, he had to retire.
“Now, cancer has unfortunately spread in his bones, colon, prostate, and lymph nodes. He is very sick. He is dying. Doctors say he has a life expectancy of one year,” Wafa explained.
“Bushra once overheard us talking about it and became severely depressed. She refused to eat, communicate and was in really bad health. We had to take her to the hospital to insert a feeding tube. Although she is nonverbal, her pain was the most communicable,” her mother said.
Since his retirement, the family relied on savings, and when the savings ran out, they sold whatever assets they had, including jewellery and property in Senegal.
Wafa cannot not work due to her husband and her daughter’s constant need for medical attention, placing the family in a perpetual state of worry.
“Bushra felt like she was a burden to us. My sweet daughter. There was one day when I felt all life fade away from me when the nurse told me that Bushra had asked her if she could give her medications to pass away in her sleep, so that she wouldn’t tire us,” Wafa said, taking a deep breath to wipe her tears.
“Imagine.. hearing your own daughter ask for death. It’s something unforgettable. What can I do? How can anyone cope with that?”
Her mother’s only wish is to sleep peacefully knowing that there’s someone out there to take care of Bushra in case anything happens to her, given that she is the only and sole caretaker of her daughter.
“If God calls for me, Bushra will be all alone. I do everything for her. What will happen to her? We have no family.. no one in this world. Ya Allah, she will be all alone,” Wafa said.
“It reached a point where I wish what no mother wishes, that my daughter passes away before me because other than me there is no one else to take care of her.”
Bushra has an older sibling, Fatma, who lives in Canada. In a desperate attempt to ensure she is taken care of if her parents pass away, Bushra’s parents have tried applying for a Canadian visa for her several times, but have been met with countless rejections and expensive lawyer bills.
“Bushra’s request was denied due to her physical condition. My only hope is lost. She needs 24/7 care and relies on me for feeding washing and even bathing. She needs around-the-clock care for her, is non-verbal, and suffers from painful muscle spasms,” Wafa said.
“We go to the hospital every other day now. Allah only knows the pain we are going through, the constant fear of tomorrow.”
Here’s how you can help
In a desperate attempt to help the struggling family, Bushra’s coach, Kathleen, has created a fundraiser to help gather donations with the help of Doha’s generous community.
“There is nothing left to sell, and the family needs URGENT financial assistance. The best hope is that the family will find stability in Qatar. Unfortunately, the family is completely losing alternative options, which leaves Bushra in a dangerous position for her future,” Kathleen wrote on the GoFundMe page.
The family’s total expenses per month, which include rent, food, medical supplies, and transport, amount to an estimated 4,500 USD. Through the fundraiser, Kathleen hopes to cover their expenses for at least a year to allow them to remain in Doha for as long as possible.
To date, 8,627 USD out of 50,000 USD have been raised. Those wishing to help Bushra’s family can donate through her GoFundMe page, here.
“I’m just asking for anything to help my family. I have run out of options. Only Allah knows how desperate I am. Every dime helps. As for my ultimate wish, it is for my daughter to be able to stay even if our time comes. I want to leave knowing she is taken care of,” Mama Wafa told Doha News.