SANDWICH — Mubashir “Mobi” Malik calls his son Zohaib resilient, strong and curious, leading up to the 5-year-old’s release from Boston Children’s Hospital after he nearly drowned in July.
“We have been praying constantly and have hope that he will fully recover,” Mobi Malik said. “He has been very chatty — very stubborn — and strong.”
While Zohaib is still recovering from his accident, which occurred at a birthday party at Snake Pond in Sandwich, he will head home Friday after an almost three-month hospital stay, said Malik.
In honor of Zohaib Malik’s recovery, state Rep. Steven Xiarhos helped plan a “Little Z Homecoming Escort,” which will include a brigade of motorcycle riders — many of whom participate in “Big Nick’s Ride for the Fallen,” an annual parade held in honor of Xiahros’ son USMC Cpl. Nicholas G. Xiarhos, 21, who was killed during a tour in Afghanistan in 2009.
The caravan of vehicles for Zohaib Malik’s escort, which will also include representatives from local police and fire departments, will meet the Malik family at Market Basket in Bourne, said Xiarhos, and will then take the family to the Sandwich Public Safety Facility where Zohaib Malik will be reunited with first responders who helped save his life.
“I’ve been a cop for 40 years and recoveries like this just don’t happen. It’s beautiful,” Xiarhos said over the phone. “It’s a miracle and Friday is going to be so special for everybody.”
Timing for the event will largely depend on traffic, said Xiarhos. Community members, who would like to participate, should check the event’s Facebook page for details.
The motorcade will also swing through Forestdale School in Sandwich, said Christopher Dintino, principal of the school.
“There’s a lot of excitement in the building,” he said. “Students and staff will be outside to cheer him on.”
For Mobi Malik, who works at the Forestdale Shell gas station, the escort is reflective of the enormous amount of support he and his family received during Zohaib Malik’s accident, and his recovery, which included a fundraiser that raised about $66,000 so far. The GoFundMe page was initiated by Christine Petricca Ross, host of the birthday party.
Zohaib Malik, said his dad, is also looking forward to his homecoming escort.
“I feel very blessed and we are very thankful to all the first responders, police and fire for everything they did,” said Mobi Malik. “They saved his life.”
Zohaib fought for his life
It’s estimated that Zohaib Malik remained underwater for about six minutes, said Mobi Malik, before he was found by a parent attending the birthday party.
Because several party attendees were members of the Coast Guard or were health care workers, they immediately initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and Zohaib Malik began breathing and regained a heartbeat.
“When the lady found him, I jumped into the water and she handed him over to me and his eyes were bulged out from the water. He was gone,” said Mobi Malik. “I lost it and I didn’t know what to do. It’s hard to think about it now.”
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Upon their arrival, emergency medical technicians continued CPR for Zohaib Malik as he was transported to Falmouth Hospital, where he was stabilized. Shortly after, he was flown by helicopter to Boston Children’s Hospital, where he remained in critical condition for about two weeks, said Mobi Malik.
“I still remember his mother coming in and she fainted looking at him in bed. I will never forget that,” he said. “I think we are all suffering from some kind of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).”
Throughout many sleepless nights, Mobi Malik and his wife, Abida, saw their son through intubation, tracheotomy and gastronomy procedures, and the boy suffered from several infections as doctors tried to wean him off of antibiotics.
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Based on brain scans, doctors told the Maliks their son suffered a significant injury to the middle part of his brain, which would impact neuron connection and recovery.
Doctors warned that Zohaib Malik may never be able to see or recognize people; or move, sit or walk like he used to. His speech would also never be the same.
“That was really hard for us to hear,” Mobi Malik said. “We were just very heartbroken because we were desperate to hear his voice.”
Zohaib’s recovery better than initially expected
After two to three weeks at Children’s Hospital, Zohaib’s recovery was going better than expected. He could breathe on his own, and he was able to swallow, drink liquids and take small bites of his mother’s home cooking.
His vision was also restored, and he was able to recognize family members and the regular nurses and doctors who cared for him.
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Soon, Zohaib Malik was transferred to a rehab facility, where, ironically, Mobi Malik said, he enjoyed his swimming pool therapy above all. Expecting a visceral reaction, ignited by the trauma of his near-drowning, Mobi Malik was floored when his son couldn’t wait to enter the water.
“He didn’t have a hard time at all — I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
As Zohaib Malik learns how to regain control of his body, he remains in a wheelchair, Mobi Malik said. Zohaib Malik is also re-learning how to speak.
“His speech is a little off and it takes a little longer to complete sentences and sometimes it’s hard to understand him,” he said.
Preparing for Zohaib’s return home
As the Maliks attempt to rebuild their lives, along with their three children — and one on the way — it’s been tough to prepare their home for Zohaib’s arrival.
Because he will initially remain in a wheelchair, Mobi Malik is hoping to find someone who can help his family make home adjustments to accommodate Zohaib Malik’s mobility — including a railing for the stairs, and safety handles for the bathroom.
Because Abida Malik is pregnant and has been sitting still for months, she is also experiencing medical difficulties, including blood clots in her legs.
“She has suffered because she has mostly remained in one place,” Mobi Malik said. “She would not leave his side. She needs help also.”
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Supervision services will also be necessary for Zohaib, Mobi Malik said, and the family will be looking for caregivers.
Financially, all the necessary preparations will be a strain, he said. While the fundraiser helped enormously with hospital bills, aftercare will also take a monetary toll.
The fundraiser remains open for additional donations.
Forestdale School is also preparing for Zohaib Malik’s arrival, said Dintino, with staff, teachers, social workers, and occupational speech and language pathologists are at the ready to help.
“Last week we had a meeting with the whole team brainstorming and strategizing how we can make Zohaib’s transition as seamless as possible,” he said. “We will roll out the red carpet.”
Zohaib’s homecoming brings hope, community connection
Every school day since the accident, Dintino said he’s fixed a pin onto his nametag, with Zohaib Malik’s picture. The image prompts memories and curiosity from students throughout the elementary grade levels.
“When the kids see my button in the lunch room and around the building, they always ask me how Zohaib is doing,” he said. “They are very excited that he will soon return.”
Xiarhos is also looking forward to greeting the Maliks as he leads the motorcade to their home, where balloons and a banner, signed by Zohaib Malik’s fellow Forestdale School students, will be waiting. The reunification with first responders will also be an emotional and special moment, Xiarhos said.
“The Sandwich fire chief told me that a couple of the medics (who rescued Zohaib) were new (to the job),” he said. “It’s a message to them throughout their careers to never give up. Miracles happen.”
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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Mashpee’s Zohaib Malik returns home after 3-month hospitalization
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