Plainfield resident weathers Hurricane Sandy
By Sarwat S. Ahmad Correspondent October 31, 2012 10:44AM
Hurricane Sandy downed this tree in the backyard of the North Bellmore, N.Y., home of the parents of Sarwat Ahmad of Plainfield. Ahmad was visiting her parents when the hurricane hit. | Sarwat Ahmad ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 2, 2012 2:06PM
Editor’s note: Herald-News freelancer Sarwat S. Ahmad of Plainfield sent this first-person report of her experience with Hurricane Sandy.
As Sandy unleashed its fury outside, we sat by candlelight draining the fluid out of my mom’s cancerous lung.
I put wet swabs in her mouth for her to suck on as my father, Nazir, so diligently, so gently let the fluid out into the vacuum bottle, drop by drop. My sister-in-law, Nasreen, stood over him with a candle burning in a cup, her 1-year-old daughter wriggling in her arms.
My mother’s breathing quickened and then relaxed with the exertion. My mother, Majeeda, has been fighting pancreatic cancer since 2005. There were some good years in between, but since 2009 it’s been a struggle with small periods of relief.
My three sons and I had left our Plainfield home two weeks ago and flown to North Bellmore, N.Y., to be with my mother for the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Adha, which we celebrated Friday in relative cheer and peace — the calm before the storm.
All Sunday night and Monday morning we had watched the news, flipping from channel to channel as we tried to gauge just how bad the storm would be for us. My weekend had been spent on the phone with the airlines rescheduling and then rescheduling again my flight back home that was supposed to be on Tuesday night.
The winds had started gusting early on Monday. If this is the worst, it’ll be OK, I thought. By 5 p.m. my sister, Farah, who lived in the next town texted me to say that they had lost power. Thank God we still have power, I texted back. Half an hour later the lights flickered and then were gone.
Soon after the half-century old tree in our back yard flattened my mom’s beloved vegetable garden. Thankfully, it cleared the house by a couple of feet.
The children, my three and my brother Khalid’s six, were beyond excited, quickly setting up mattresses and sleeping bags in the living room. The dining room chairs were swiftly transported to the living room and transformed into a fort. They giggled with glee as we set up candles around the house. It was all an adventure for them — a fun sleepover.
My mother started to feel the pressure and pain of the excess fluid pooling in the pleura space of her right lung. Quickly we set to drain it to give her relief. Eventually she drifted to sleep, and we all took to our beds.
The night passed with the older children sleeping soundly, as the adults found themselves waking in turns — first for the screaming baby and then again to help my mother who was in pain.
Tuesday dawned with the sun breaking through the clouds — a welcoming bright glare for a brief hour before the clouds took over again, and a gentler rain started to fall over the sheltering homes and the fallen trees and electrical poles.
Sandy’s wrath had left us with damage, but nothing we could not get past. The lights came back on Wednesday and the rotted food was thrown into the growing pile of trash. The debris in the streets would eventually be swept away.
The cancer, unfortunately, is here to stay.
Bellmore is on the south shore of Long Island, approximately 27 miles east of Manhattan