It took me many weeks to write this nomination; it was difficult for many reasons. I don't typically share personal details of my daily life on social media, particularly relating to my health status. I actually originally wrote these words as a social media post- a way for me to express my deep gratitude and share with my friends, news of my health and healing. When I became aware of the opportunity provided by Mohave County Positive Change Agents to nominate anybody in the community deserving of special recognition, I knew I needed to share my gratitude even more publicly.
My nomination is for a very kind person, a physician who never gave up on me and went far beyond providing the average medical care typically provided by physicians, particularly those with long wait lists.
My struggle began on January 27th, 2015, nearly 20 months ago in an emergency room visit. That visit led to a long hospitalization, a transfer to a neurological unit in a Phoenix-based hospital and a difficult stay in a nursing home. Upon release from the nursing home, I continued a long and grueling process of physical and cognitive rehabilitation. During that journey, I encountered many physicians, physical therapists and other medical specialists. I was confined to a wheelchair and very slow to make progress toward walking, swallowing food, transferring from a wheelchair, writing words, understanding written or spoken words and cognition. I avoided Facebook and other social media, because I couldn't write anything sensible without assistance.
Most every doctor, every therapist and every specialist I encountered, I recognized as people who were slowly robbing me of hope for a full recovery, and in most cases, even a partial recovery. It seemed as my physical therapists were focused on teaching me how to be more proficient at navigating and transferring safely from my wheelchair, than helping me regain any part of what I had lost. No matter how much I pleaded with each of them, sometimes very tearfully, I typically would only receive more medication or more words which were discouraging. My hope diminished and I felt my light extinguishing, but I did not give up. I only became very quiet, and though my determination grew inside of me, I was so sad.
My primary physician was especially a person who would be very vocal and use words which were deeply discouraging. She once told me, "this is never going to get better and you need to accept your limitations and learn to live with them."
At a point when my physical symptoms of pain increased to an unmanageable level, I was referred to a pain management doctor who was also an anesthesiologist. I resisted taking any narcotics for pain relief and was grateful that she understood and assisted me by using other methods to control my pain. I'm not sure why, and may only attribute what happened later to this physician's personal work ethic, standards of care and adherence to the Hippocratic oath, but I could tell early in my doctor/patient relationship, that she was strongly committed to helping me in every possible way.
At one visit, this remarkable doctor said to me, "I can't wait for the day you will WALK into my office, a day you will know your life is back to normal and you have healed." Given my experiences from every other doctor and specialist encountered, I was truly shocked by her words, but deeply grateful. It wasn't just her words, but the way she said them, that made me know she was genuine and sincere.
She truly felt that I could heal. She made me feel even more determined that I would defy the odds given to me by so many medical professionals and prove them to be wrong about my ability to recover and heal. I didn't realize until then, that even my faith felt as it was slowly seeping away. I feel ashamed to admit I was losing any faith, but so blessed to know now it was never truly missing. I am as faith-filled as ever, deeply grateful and trusting of our Heavenly Father and His great plans for me. I believe I have served well and I believe I will be guided toward healing in order to continue my resolve to serve and help others.
This remarkable doctor, though her specialty and my reason for seeing her was pain control, provided me and a caretaker with exercises for my body and to even help with lost cognitive skills. Most importantly, she said these words: "Please do not ever allow any doctor or other person to rob you of hope. What ultimately happens to you will be between you and God." I needed those words. I needed in those moments, the hope provided by those words, so sincerely spoken. That doctor, on every single visit, encouraged me, established goals for me outside of her specialty and implanted even more hope- not false hope. She cheered in her own way, from the sidelines, for every little bit of progress I made. She said, "I won't give up on you. I'm as determined to help you be productive again as you are to be productive and heal."
I had multiple outpatient procedures in her facility, and experienced some of the same kindness and encouragement from her staff. And later, during an urgent care visit to her facility, I was provided the same level of care for four consecutive days and additional visits, by her son Dr. Harris Salim, an internal medicine physician within the same facility. His standard of care matched his mother's. He was committed, dedicated and sincere about helping me heal in any ways he could accomplish.
Later in another emergency room visit which resulted in another long- duration hospital stay, I was referred to a surgeon. New symptoms had developed, I had deteriorated more, and my colon just wasn't functioning. A surgeon, referred by a hospital physician came to my hospital room one evening. I could tell he had just come from being in surgery- he was very tired. He spoke to me for a short time before telling me there was nothing he could do for me but schedule the removal of my colon. It was not vanity which made me say "absolutely not" to that recommendation. I requested a same-day release from the hospital, not really knowing what I would then do, or the decisions I would make.
Later, I told the pain doctor, the remarkably committed woman who never gave up on me, what happened in the hospital- I shared this with her in a routine follow-up visit as an outpatient in her facility. She asked me to consider a second opinion by a surgeon who was affiliated with her and worked out of her facility. I, of course, was very grateful for even the possibility of a different outcome. That surgeon performed a colonoscopy. In his follow-up, he shared his opinion and recommendations. He gave me instructions to follow and said, "we're going to do everything we can to prevent the most drastic measure of removing your colon." That surgeon considered other options and understood my fears.
Though I inevitably pleaded with him to tell me what I wanted to hear, he didn't give me false hope. He merely chose to take enough time and try additional options. The pain management physician and the surgeon's shared approach to medicine, standards of care, and humanity, breathed hope and strength into my broken body and spirit.
I remember the very first day I took a few steps. I was very clumsy and unbalanced, but so grateful. I knew my journey would be long and difficult. I continue to this day having some good days and some terrible days, and I know my journey will perhaps not lead me to complete healing; I do understand that, and I wish I had the words now to explain how much any progress truly means.
I remember the first day I swallowed even soft foods with little difficulty, and how I slowly began to experiment with different foods with no fear of choking, even while being alone with no caretaker or assistance of any kind.
I remember how many times I read words I didn't understand; how many times I tried to write words, only to read them and not be sure they were proper, correct or even sensible. I remember the struggle to spell even simple words, and even read the time on a clock correctly. I remember working with a speech therapist- how frustrating it was to not be able to perform simple tasks, such as naming animals in succession, even just a few, without mentally struggling. I have been a business and marketing consultant for my entire adult life, and successfully navigated what was sometimes very arduous and complicated. I felt certain I would never be able to successfully do that again and avoided much of what I lost confidence in doing. Being productive has always been so very necessary for me. Feeling helpful to others has been as a lifeline for so many years, even decades.
I feel strongly that any person, in any profession, who goes so far beyond what is expected of them; the compassionate, wonderful people who spread hope, share their light and contribute to our well-being- even change our lives, should be highly honored, held in great esteem and understand the difference they make in our world. So, no matter how hard it is for me to share personal details publicly, I must share my deep gratitude and honor the physicians who in many ways saved me.
I still have a long road, but these days I take many steps. My wheelchair is still needed at times, but I now walk more than I am in the wheelchair. I still have limited balance and occasionally struggle to swallow. I still have pain and other symptoms, but I'm improving daily. Though I sometimes have those days when it seems as I've gone backwards, I seem to always overcome quickly and begin to make progress again. I can take steps outside the home to experience nearby nature, beautiful birds and little wonders created by God- chipmunks, squirrels, quail, doves, cotton-tailed bunnies and even the occasional roadrunner or jack rabbit. It's peaceful, healing and wondrous to me. I work even harder at my cognitive recovery, trying new and more difficult tasks daily. It is for the hope, belief in me, determination and the fact that no matter if I ever saw this doctor again, I will always remember, she just never gave up on me.
I guess, I'm not sure what I need to express now, more than the depth of my gratitude. My words must still sometimes be edited by another for clarity, but they are my words; my feelings. For this remarkable physician, I am even more determined that I will experience a close-to full recovery. It doesn't matter how long it takes. She was right; my ultimate outcome is between me and God. She is a facilitator, a healer, a person who uses her skills to help heal others. She does so with the highest possible standards of care; the highest level of sincerity, commitment and dedication to her patients. She deserves accolades and she deserves to know that she truly does make a difference. I believe she chose her profession for wanting to make a difference. Our world is full of people as this remarkable doctor.
Her words about not allowing any other doctor or person to rob me of hope were spoken from deep wisdom, experience and understanding. Her words are a lesson for all of us. Never give up, don't let your struggles; your health and other life challenges define you. Stay strong, fight like you've never fought before and remain determined to reach your own healing goals. Especially, never allow another human being to rob you of hope or extinguish even a sliver of your light.
I am deeply grateful for Dr. Attiya Salim, Dr. Harris Salim and Dr. M. Azam Khan. in Kingman, Arizona; all medical professionals of Arizona Institute of Medicine & Surgery. I will never forget them or the care they have provided for me. We should all be grateful for the people they are. They are the epitome of humanity; the examples we all seek throughout our lives.They are the bringers of hope; the light-bearers...they are as we should all strive to be.
This nomination- the gratitude, the lessons- all contained in my words...I can think of no better way to have brought in the new year than to recall how filled with gratitude, determination and hope I was, and remain today.
I am resolved to continuing to do good things and believe as always, that we may all make a positive difference in our world.
Thank you for the opportunity to nominate Dr. Attiya Salim to be recognized by Mohave County Positive Change Agents for her compassionate care. I extend to each of you my gratitude for the positive light you shine in our communities. I'm proud to be counted as just one of the many good people of your group. May we all continue spreading light; together I know we can indeed make a positive and lasting difference.
Submitted by: Pamala