Dr. Ruby Abassi
“My youngest son Bilal fell victim to meningitis. As a doctor I had worked in PEADS and never seen a child survive from that condition but he did. However he became a patient of Cerebral Palsy and became wheelchair bound.” Dr Ruby Abbasi, delightfully warm and ever smiling, recalls the difficulties she and her family went through after Bilal’s birth. Along with her husband, an army officer, and elder daughter she moved to Karachi for her son’s sake. Cerebral Palsy, an outcome of damage to brain functions controlling physical movements, resulted in Bilal losing his speech as well and he could only communicate with his eyes. Ruby and her daughter were the only ones who could understand his eye communication. At first, it was extremely difficult for her and she felt she was on the brink of breaking down. But her family, especially her husband, mother, siblings, and elder children helped bring her back to stability. Ruby recalls how her husband, who had to be at work by 8am every morning, never left without feeding their son. “I’m extremely grateful to Allah for my life, for my health and for my family.”
Today Ruby is the founder and CEO of Al Umeed Rehabilitation Association (AURA) for children suffering from Cerebral Palsy. The NGO runs on donations, fundraisers, and sponsorships. “Al Umeed’s facility is all about the donors in Karachi and world over. They are all large hearted. Bless them,” Ruby says. Those who can afford it, pay one tenth of the Rs.15,000 spent on each child per month. The organization began in 1985 in a two room premises in PCHS. Bilal, along with two other children were the first patients. It has come a long way since then. Currently they are located in Gulistan-e-Johar and have 122 children including 43 street children. Working for the integration of able and differently abled children is Ruby’s passion. Over 2000 children have gone through her foundation.
With her relocation to Karachi, communication challenges with Bilal and the burdens of running an organization dependent on charity, there is no doubt that Ruby has had her fair share of hardships. But for her the biggest hurdle has been trying to change the mindset of people. She used to take Bilal everywhere on his wheelchair to make his life as normal as possible, but people would stand and stare. Even in Karachi she couldn’t find a place for children suffering from Cerebral Palsy. She had done a world renowned course from England and could have stayed home and worked with her son. But she decided that the best use of her knowledge and experience would be to open a centre that could not only give care to children but also work on awareness of this crippling disease. No carpenters or shops would make equipment suitable for CP patients and their location was a big issue but with the support of her family she cleared all hurdles. And then, 6 years ago, her husband passed away and she lost her biggest pillar of support. The rest of her family and her friends continue to be there for her.
Today, Al Umeed is Ruby’s miracle. The way it was made and where it is now is all miraculous. She attributes her success to God. “He wanted it to happen, so it happened. We had to go through turmoil because Allah wanted Al Umeed to be made.”
Ruby continues to radiate with love and warmth. “I love dancing, so I dance with my friends. I love laughing so I laugh with them. I was that person before and today, to a slightly lesser extent, I still am.” Bilal passed away when he was 32, yet his legacy continues to live on through his mother, inspiring us and helping more families and children every year.