‘I was scared to stand. I presented my poem on my knees. ‘You’ve inspired us all!’ I never let my disability stop me.’: Young man shares journey with heart condition, ‘I keep pushing through’

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“My name is Asad Sheikh and I am 19-years-old. I live in Queens, New York, with my parents and two younger sisters. My parents are from Pakistan and our religion is Islam, which plays an important role in my life because it’s the only thing that has kept me strong throughout any difficulties I have faced.

Praying has tremendously helped me throughout my whole life. When I had surgeries and I wasn’t able to move, I would pray while laying. When I struggled in my classes, I prayed. Even when life was going great, I still prayed. Praying was a medicine for me and it helped me through a lot. I gained hope by communicating with Allah.

When I was born, I had a heart condition where I was born with three chambers, instead of four. Within the first 2 months of being alive, I’d undergo three major heart surgeries. The first one was when I was a day old, the second one was when I was a week old, and the third one was when I was 1 and a half months old. After those surgeries, I had an artificial chamber put into my heart and I never had any further heart complications. However, the medication I took did make my bones fragile.

Courtesy of Asad Sheikh

One day during pre-school, I was coming back home from school on the school bus and I was very tired, so I fell asleep on the bus. When the bus pulled up in front of my house, I was still sleeping and so the bus driver picked me up to try and help me stand. But she accidentally dropped me and I broke my leg.

My dad took me to the hospital and they casted up my leg. However, my dad didn’t want to press charges because Islam teaches us that you need to forgive others, regardless of how bad the situation is, and in turn, Allah would forgive you. Especially since the bus driver didn’t break my leg on purpose, it makes it even more important to forgive.

After that fall, I was really scared if I stood up I would be in pain. Because of this fear, my legs started to get stuck in a 90-degree position, resulting in two surgeries on the lower half of my body. Even after those surgeries, though, I showed no real progress. I didn’t let that ‘lack of progress’ get to me, though, because if Allah kept me alive through three heart surgeries, while I was breathing through three chambers and not four, I knew he wasn’t going to abandon me during these new difficulties.

Courtesy of Asad Sheikh

The ironic part is I was a really active kid, so climbing up the stairs and walking on my knees was actually fun. I never let this disability stop me from doing anything, so I was still able to do everything I wanted. I’m able to ride my bike everywhere I go and when I’m at home, I walk on my knees. The only time I use my wheelchair is when I’m at school.

When I first started sixth grade, everyone was so nice and I immediately made a lot of friends. They would always help me out and they wouldn’t bully me for being in a wheelchair. Throughout middle school, I was known as an easy, ‘go-to person’ so it wasn’t hard for me to make friends.

Even though I love being an independent person, I do still need help at times with minor things, such as picking up something I dropped. And everyone in my middle school was so nice to me and they would always help me out a lot.

Courtesy of Asad Sheikh

I remember one time in seventh grade, we had to write a poem and present it in front of the whole class in the school’s garden. I presented my poem while on my knees and during that time, I felt great. My teacher came up to me and told me, ‘You just going up there on your knees to present has inspired all of the other kids.’ She continued, ‘If you can do it, then nobody has any excuse for not being able to.’

Courtesy of Asad Sheikh

I used to do a lot of boxing in middle school and when I went to high school. I did a lot of weight training, especially during my senior year. I had the best P.E. teacher, named Mrs. Fig, and she has helped me become stronger, both physically and mentally. She has also helped me achieve my goals and gain strength by advising ways to change my diet routine and by making sure I was healthy.

Mrs. Fig would also post videos of me working out, on her Instagram account, in order to encourage me to do better and better each day. I was really surprised and proud of myself after seeing the results of working out for 8 months straight.

Even though this year we weren’t really able to go out anywhere, I still had some equipment to use in order to keep my strength and make sure I worked out every day. My friend and I also made an Instagram account where we post videos of us working out. And even though I haven’t really posted anything because of college, I have still been getting those gains.

Courtesy of Asad Sheikh

Life sends a lot of problems toward you. The only thing that matters is the way you react and how much faith you have. He is never going to abandon you and He has brought you so far, for a reason. I also learned if you keep holding onto your past, it’s going to keep bringing you down. So that is why, from the beginning of my life, I have kept moving on and pushing through. There are so many great things out there.

Courtesy of Asad Sheikh

If I had tried to walk again after my fall, despite my fear of being in pain, I would have. However, I learned if you just give up and dwell on the past, nothing good is going to come out of it. And that’s why it’s important for us to push ourselves to do great things in life, no matter how tough things are.

In the Quran, it says, ‘Surely with that hardship comes more ease,’ (Inshirah verse 6). What that means is after every difficulty, you will find so much comfort that will make you forget about all of your problems. I recite and think about that line a lot because of the powerful meaning behind it and the strength it gives me every day.”

Courtesy of Asad Sheikh

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Asad Sheikh from Queens, New York. You can follow his journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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