|Ayesha and Salman's last picture together|
I became aware of 23-year-old Salman Mehmood's existence on October 19, 2009. That was also the day he stopped being. Prominent Pakistani bloggers had been posting updates about Salman's condition, who was fighting it out at a Karachi hospital, and praying for a miracle.
Salman, a Thalassemia major and founder of Thalassemia.com.pk, blogged and tweeted about his condition to make sure no other patient suffered the way his family and he did. Salman had lost elder brother Nauman to Thalassemia, and Ayesha, his youngest sibling, was also living off blood transfusions.
I checked Salman’s blog "Salman Namah" and Twitter timeline shortly after his death. It was hard to believe that he had ceased to exist.
"Dear Diary: Well, right now my mom and sis are giving me ‘pittay’ that I’ll have 12 kids. Khair… I tweeted after three days. Feels weird, it’s like riding a bike after 10 years.
“Dear Diary: Umm hi again. I am very tired right now (it’s 11:23 pm). I have not been very fortunate with sleep this week. But that’s normal...Khair.”
I soon became addicted to Salman’s little sister Ayesha’s blog too – who decided to carry forward her brother’s mission. I recently learnt other details – such as their trip to Chennai in search of a cure shortly after Nauman’s death in 1999. After spending three months at Apollo Hospital the family returned empty-handed, but packed with information on Thalassemia, which was unavailable in Pakistan then.
In 2003, Salman decided to spread awareness about Thalassemia and launched www.thalassemia.com.pk even as he checked in and out of the hospital for “different problems”. Their father’s untimely demise hit them in 2007. However, the biggest blow was Salman’s eventual death due to meningitis.
“It was the biggest loss to our family. It was really hard to get back to life. But as his mission was to spread awareness I took up the responsibility and started managing the website. I also started arranging blood camps and free screening camps, started writing more blogs….” says Ayesha.
Ayesha manages www.iwritealot.com too, Salman’s last project to generate funds for needy patients. She has also started “Sponsor a child programme” and has sponsored five children in just a year.
Each year, 5,000 to 6,000 children are born with Thalassemia in Pakistan, yet there is no government-aided facility for such patients.