On Feb. 28, my brother, Shahzaib Bajwa, was to be put on an airplane and flown halfway across the world while still in a coma. He was to be sent to a hospital in Pakistan with substandard care and would have been discharged three months later after the insurance money ran out. Instead, the community from Minnesota to Pakistan stood up for Shahzaib and asked that he continue to get medical care in Minnesota.

Shahzaib was in a vehicle-deer accident on Nov. 13. The deer came through the windshield, and its antlers struck my brother’s head. He was talking and responsive after the accident. He was first taken to a hospital in Cloquet, Minn., where he had a cardiac arrest and suffered anoxic brain injury. He was then transferred to St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth.

Initially, the doctors were not very hopeful, but by the grace of God, Shahzaib is breathing on his own now and is showing signs of improvement, like coughing, sneezing, smiling, crying, moaning and making random noises. He just needs to wake up from the coma.

Last week, Shahzaib was transferred to a nursing and rehabilitation facility in Duluth. The insurance money will last approximately six months in this facility, and the U.S. State Department will continue extending his visa until funds are exhausted. After that, the family will have to bear the medical costs. We hope he gets better during this time and will be ready to have facial reconstruction surgery.

The Duluth Muslim community has been very helpful throughout this time, even though it is a small group of people. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, Minnesota, was very instrumental in making this happen in a short span of time and has guided me at each step. My family and I are very thankful. We appreciate the Pakistani Consulate in Chicago for making this case a top priority. We also thank the University of Wisconsin-Superior, IREX (the exchange program) and Essentia Health.

Most important, we want to thank everyone in the community — local, national and international — who has prayed, donated, contacted government officials and hospital administrators, and has been a source of support and comfort for us during this difficult time.

You all have likely saved my brother’s life.

The family has set up an online fund for Bajwa’s medical bills. To donate, visit: http://www.gofundme.com/6t9bq8.


Shahraiz Bajwa, of Duluth, is a student.