The Foreign Service Journal, June 2003

92 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U N E 2 0 0 3 In Jeddah, our family’s first post, guest workers from all over the Muslim world came to Saudi Arabia to work and send money to their families. One day in March 1983, a Pakistani couple appeared for a visa interview. Their 3-month-old son was in obvious distress. Cradled by his mother, he weighed about seven pounds and his fingers, toes and lips were blue, obvi- ous signs of a serious heart defect that required immediate attention. His mother knew the medical treatment her son needed was only available in the U.S. So she called the embassy, and the nurse practitioner identified several American hospitals specializ- ing in heart surgery. Next, the baby’s family applied for their visas to travel to the U.S. A heart specialist in Washington had agreed to treat the baby, pending a review of his medical history. With no medical background, I could only surmise the seriousness of the baby’s illness. A local doctor agreed to see the child that afternoon. As soon as the doctor saw the infant, he had him admitted to a hospital. At 5:30 the following morning, the phone rang at our house on the embassy compound. The woman whom I had met just the day before said to me: “My son, Mohamed, has just died. It is God’s will.” She would return to Pakistan to her other chil- dren. In the 20 years since these events, I have replayed them in my mind many times. In March 2001, our family wel- comed the arrival of our second grand- child, Gabriel. Our daughter Rebecca, who was only 5 when I met Mohamed’s family in Jeddah, had delivered her son in Roanoke. The baby seemed healthy, but had a slight heart murmur. After a couple of days at home, Gabriel was in distress and a cardiologist diagnosed a serious heart defect, Truncus Ateriosus — an incompletely formed heart — that would require almost immediate open-heart surgery. In a flashback, I saw that Pakistani family sitting in my tiny office in Jeddah, hoping that a miracle was within their grasp as they sought the visas to the United States. How dif- ferent were the prospects for Gabriel simply because of his place of birth! At Duke University Hospital, he was treated by one of the top heart surgeons on the East Coast. The medical team needed five hours to repair his plum-sized heart, while his parents and grandparents nervously awaited the results. When we first saw him later, Gabriel was plugged into eight mon- itors, was receiving several intra- venous fluids and oxygen, and had three tubes draining his lower abdomen. Three other small chil- dren, all similarly fed, tubed and monitored, kept him company. It was humbling to contemplate the depth of the expertise and dedica- tion of doctors and staff, and the sophistication of the equipment monitoring his recovery. Again, I thought of Mohamed and his par- ents, and about how far in time and place we had moved. Today, Gabriel Chester looks like a “Campbell’s kid,” a redhead with a happy disposition that belies the challenges he faced so early in life. Yet for me, his life will be linked for- ever with Mohamed’s, that dark- haired Pakistani infant who had no chance to live. But there is one important simi- larity between the two families. Mohamed’s parents taught me about the power of faith and hope. Our daughter and son-in-law have rein- forced that lesson, through their own courage and determination in the face of adversity. ■ In a flashback, I saw that Pakistani family sitting in my office in Jeddah, hoping that a miracle was within their grasp. David Rabadan retired from the Foreign Service in 2002. He and his family were in Jeddah from 1982 until 1984. The stamp is courtesy of the AAFSW Bookfair “Stamp Corner.” R EFLECTIONS Two Worlds B Y D AVID R ABADAN