At the 2012 Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress in Milwaukee, WI, Sabina Qureshi, a burn survivor resulting from a 2010 cooking accident, and her husband Saleem participated in the Phoenix Society’s SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery) training program. A testament as to how far they’ve come, the Qureshis are preparing to serve as peer support volunteers at the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center. Sabina had a passion for cooking and received burns to 65% of her body when her clothes accidently caught fire while preparing a large family dinner. Her husband, Saleem, and two daughters, Umbreen and Attia were immediately there for her and helped her through her recovery. After experiencing several surgeries, physical therapy, and overcoming anxiety, Sabina has rediscovered her love for cooking and continues to care for the family that was there for her. With each passing day, Sabina sees new evidence of her physical, emotional, and spiritual recovery. Read Sabina’s full story here:
By: Kathy Edwards PhD
Coriander. Cumin. Turmeric. A pinch of salt and a dash of pepper. Cooking is the spice of life for Sabina Qureshi. Known for serving up generous portions of delectable food to those she loves, it’s a poignant irony that Sabina’s clothing accidentally caught fire in July 2010 while she was preparing food for a relative with an injury.
“I had quite a few stoves going, including a camping stove out on the deck,” Sabina explains. “The wind suddenly picked up and flames shot out of the stove, catching the back of my skirt.” She ran into the house, where several kitchen fans served to accelerate the blaze. She didn’t know it at the time, but Sabina had sustained second- and third-degree burns to 65% of her body. Somehow she had the presence of mind to put the flames out by herself and call her husband, Saleem, who was at work. A neighbor drove Sabina to the nearest hospital, where they met up with Saleem. From there, she was taken by ambulance to the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center.
Preparing for the Worst
Saleem recalls that as he rode in the ambulance with his wife, she was giving him instructions on how to inform their daughters and how to handle their affairs in case she didn’t make it. “Sabina knew how badly she was burned, but I didn’t understand,” Saleem explains. “She was wrapped in wet towels and blankets. I couldn’t really see the extent of her injuries until she was admitted to the hospital. That’s when I started to realize how horrific this accident was for her.” Saleem remembers feeling very alone in the first days after the accident. “Sabina and I have been best friends for 30 years, 25 of them as a married couple,” he says. “It was hard to watch her go through the pain and suffering.”
Finding Hope He found hope in his extended family and by staying actively involved in Sabina’s care. Saleem reflects on a moment of clarity and peace he experienced early on, while talking to the doctor about his wife’s condition. He remembers thinking, “Everything is going to be okay. We’re going to make it through.” Sabina and Saleem did make it through, with the help of their daughters, Attia and Umbreen, and a strong support network of family and friends. But it wasn’t easy. “I figured out that having a positive attitude and determination were the keys,” Sabina explains. She endured multiple skin graft surgeries, painful dressing changes, and physical therapy during her recovery. Saleem wondered if his wife would have long-term disabilities that would prevent her from doing everyday things. He wondered if their life together would ever be the same. He found solace in being there for her at the hospital and later when she came home, helping her when he could with tasks such as changing her dressings and putting on her pressure garments. After 14 surgeries, 2 months in the burn unit, and a week in a rehabilitation hospital, Sabina was finally discharged.
Continue reading Sabina’s story here.