I want to tell you about something good…something so good it makes me tear up to write about it. Twelve years ago I met a man who changed my life forever. I’m pretty sure he saved it. You see, this man is a doctor. He’s one of the foremost pulmonologists in the world, and he lives in San Angelo, Texas.
A friend who also lived in San Angelo told me about this doc and wouldn’t stop bugging me to see him. I had given up on doctors, even pulmonologists, because none of them had ever heard of my disease. I was “fighting” the disease by ignoring it. Yeah, that always works.
In truth, I only agreed to see this specialist so my friend would give it a rest. He also suffered from a rare and incurable lung disease so I gave him the courtesy of a listen.
I am the woman who tries to put a positive spin on everything, yet I drove the five hours from Terlingua to San Angelo with mixed feelings, none of them very positive. I insisted on going alone so I could cry all the way home without anyone to shush me. The medical profession in general had failed me since 1985, when I’d been sent home to die. “You have this fatal disease, but we know nothing about it.” “You probably have about six months.” “Good luck.”
Thanks a lot.
Did I dare hope some “San Angelo specialist” would help me? Against all odds, I did dare. Just a little.
Before I ever met this doctor, I was given breathing test after breathing test. After those, his nurse took the most comprehensive medical history I’ve ever given anyone. Then she said, “You were diagnosed with a disease in 1985? Please tell me the name of it.”
“Say what? Can you spell that?”
She left it blank and took me into the examination room where I would finally meet the doctor. He came in, introduced himself, and shook my hand. His hand was warm and strong and his smile made it to his eyes. I warmed to him a tad.
He placed the test results and my new folder on the exam table and studied them. I knew that he knew I was in trouble, but he stayed calm and asked, “What brings you in today?”
“I have a rare lung disease that nobody seems to know.”
He had his back to me for a moment because he was washing his hands at the sink. “The name of it?”
I told him and added, “Have you ever heard of it?”
He turned to me with an incredulous look on his face. “Of course I’ve heard of it! I’m a pulmonologist.”
Tears sprang into my eyes.
He finished drying his hands and then he said, “The disease you have is now referred to as LAM. Were you diagnosed by lung biopsy?”
“What year was that?”
“It was January of 1985.”
“Did you say 1985?” He couldn’t hide his surprise.
“What did they tell you?”
“That nothing was known about the disease and that I should get my affairs in order. They gave me six months to live.”
“Doctors should never do that.”
“I’m glad they did because I set out to prove them wrong. And I have.”
“You certainly have.” He gazed at me as if I were a rare pink unicorn.
After a bit more talk, he said I would need many more comprehensive tests. I told him I had no insurance due to pre-existing conditions and would not be able to afford those tests.
He took my hand and looked into my eyes and said, “I will never charge you one dime for anything. I don’t need your money. I want you to live. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” I could barely speak. I felt I was in this presence of a holy man. I was, but I hadn’t taken it in yet.
“I want to be a part of something this fantastic. God wants you alive for some important reason and I feel called to help. I cannot say no to God.”
I have come to know this doctor well in twelve years of seeing him every three months. He cares for me as if I am his own mother. True to his word, he has never charged me one dime. He treats me as though I’m his only patient. He is so full of love; it spills all around him. When he touches me I feel the healer in him, as though I’m being touched by a deity. And I always, always feel his love. Sitting here, far from him, I can still feel it. I know I could call him right now and say I needed to see him and he’d say, “Come on.”
This amazing doctor’s name? It’s Mohammed-Ammar Ayass. He is Syrian. He is a devout Muslim. He’s a pulmonologist, a cardiologist, AND he’s also an internist. I have never known a better doctor or a more brilliant man.
Like all people everywhere, Syrians are a mix of good and bad, beautiful and ugly. Why would people assume they’re all terrorists? Really? What we need, what every country needs, is more human beings like Dr. Ayass. What if he had been turned away from our shores?