My father left Afghanistan when Russia ruled during the 1980s. So I was born in Pakistan. Our family from Afghanistan used to visit us for a night or two. The healthcare system for them was so, so bad. They used to come to Pakistan for medical reasons. I would see that my countrymen were in struggle because no good doctors for them. So I was thinking, Why not go into healthcare? At least, I can help my countrymen in this way. To be a good doctor for them.
When I was 17, my father decide we should return to Afghanistan. My father was so happy to return home after so long away. We rent a big truck. All our furniture and stuff was inside. Above the truck is an open area and we 10 sisters and brothers sat in that. It took seven hours with all the traffic to cross the border.
At the beginning, it was tough. I did my 11 and 12 grades in Afghanistan. It was bad because we didn’t know how to write Pashto. We used to fight a lot with other girls because they were using bad words towards us. Because we went to school in Pakistan, we only knew how to write Urdu. And now school was in Pashto. My father used to bring a Pashto newspaper for us. He used to practice with us. We learned this way.
On August 15, Taliban took over and we dispersed internally to Kabul. It was around two and a half hour drive. It took a long time because we are stopping at so many check points. We told the Taliban we were going to a family wedding in Kabul.
We stayed awake all night outside the airport. Everyone wanted to leave the country. You feel suffocated. So many people pressing into you, you could not even move your chest to breathe. Everyone was so scared. The area was flooded with water from draining system from bathroom of Kabul. There was feces there, urine, everything. We suffered a lot. My sister-in-law just gave birth. My nephew was only 8 or 9 days. He was so young and soaking in sweat. It was so hot, we were so scared for him.
Someone from the military called my sister and said a bomb blast is going to happen. My father said, “No, I don’t want to kill my kids here. I don’t want to die here.” So we left the airport at 11 am to go back to safe house. There was so many people, it took us two hours just to leave the airport. We return home and bomb blasted. 200 people died. Right where we were standing.
We wanted to leave Afghanistan because we are family of women. 7 sisters. All educated. The Taliban would never support girls education. They never allow us to work. And we are the breadwinners for our family. So how would we survive? We just wanted to survive. We have always been refugees. My father, us, now my nephew. Third generation of refugees. Being a refugee is a big burden on humans. Always starting from zero.
My sister said, “Don’t cry. The best part is that you are going to never be a refugee again. If you come to America, you’re never going to be refugee again. You can save the future for your kids. They will be saved.”
At Fort Dix military camp in New Jersey, I found a meeting for job seekers run by Upwardly Global. It was limited seats and full of females. They show how to register and take online training. They talk about the importance of research for healthcare system. If you are doctor, another option for you is research because qualifying as a doctor takes years and not everyone can take that path. Upwardly Global helped me get interviews for open jobs at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
I did clinic research from 50 patients for my Masters and now I am doing research for new job as Data Research Coordinator at the hospital. The job is data collection of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation patients. I know I will do my best to help with this analysis because it is where I want to be. I cannot go with practicals as a doctor right now because my university does not transfer over internationally, so this is the second thing I want to be. Because I will have contact with many doctors and other healthcare professionals who can guide my career.
If I have opportunity to do my license evaluation, I will do. I would love to do surgery again. When I received my first credential upon my graduation, I was dancing. I was so happy. I felt I have achieved what I wanted and I will never go for any other achievement because it is the biggest achievement I can have—to be a surgeon.