As Nietzsche said: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!"
I would know, because here I am, 6 years post a very severe stroke Cerebral Vascular Accident' that changed EVERYTHING. Like every year, I had my plans and resolutions for 2014 written down:
1. Gym four times a week,
2. Learn new things,
3. Attend seminars every month,
4. Be more adventurous and travel more,
5. Help my students and
6. Write a practical legal book of methodology to guide them and inspire their success.
It was in January 18, 2014 precisely on Saturday night. It was a cold Moroccan winter which became a dark night for my family.
I don't really remember the details. You know when we stress before a trip of discovery . But, what discovery? Internal library!
My friend reminded me a little bit of my enthusiasm that night. I told her as I drove home that I had an unusual headache. And, the night before, I felt tingling sensation in a right arm.
Luckily my parents and my oldest brother were home when I arrived. My mother saw that something was wrong in my speech saying just: "Please, no one touches me". The situation was overwhelming for my family. Without hesitation, they rushed me into hospital which until this day none of them remembers how they managed that, with all the traffic of Casablanca, the busiest city in Morocco. Two hours later, a magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI) revealed that a tangle of abnormal blood vessels in my brain, called an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), had ruptured, causing a tsunami as the doctors described it to my family. They had no choice but to temporarily remove a part of my skull to relieve the pressure. Indeed, the lesions in the left hemisphere were threatening.
After twenty (20) days in coma, I woke up in Pitié-Salpêtrière University Hospital in Paris with some flashbacks like leaving the clinic in Morocco, the pilot wearing an orange jacket on medical airplane and my brother beside me. I was surrounded by my family, unable to recall why I was there, what has exactly happened. It is only after a few days that I realized the reason why, when I had no more fever, and I could not enunciate my words. As a result, I had to learn how to read and write again which was one of the most frustrating parts of the rehabilitation process. After all, I'm a professor which by definition has an effective communication skills. My job was and still is my passion and back then I couldn't fathom doing anything else, so I had to start all over again! Fortunately, my right hemisphere had generously collaborated to build back better
While I was in the clinic in Casablanca, my students came to visit me. Despite my weakness, it made me happy to hear that they came every day even when I was in coma until I went to France. I remember one student visited me in Paris hospital in the first few months, when I was unable to articulate correctly my words. To start a conversation, he said: "Your maritime law lecture was very constructive. That's unfortunate, we hadn't finished the part dedicated to the sale of ships. So, I started to explain the key takeaways to him, and I said, "Don't forget to read about the seafarers' agreement. How did I remember everything, when formulating sentences was difficult!?!?
You have to ask my little brain! :)
The period of convalescence wasn't easy. However, I already knew that life takes an endeavour and will as if you are committed to a long sea voyage and a well- informed captain knows how to manage all necessary steps to reach the desired destination against all odds.
Several months after my stroke, rehabilitation became entirely a full-time job for me, with physiotherapy 5 days a week, as well as speech therapy that I practiced alone and regularly as if learning to speak, read and write or even walking was undemanding, but I was troubled by the lack of physical energy and the spasticity in my right hand. You can imagine my dilemma at the time.
My compass was to keep practicing and pushing for it. I even started to learn how to write with my left hand as I was right-handed before. I started writing a few words, take a break, write a few more, take a break. I kept going until I could write a sentence.
A year later, I felt I could write a paragraph, even several paragraphs. This is when I set the goal of writing pages without caring about spelling mistakes. It was challenging as long as I had to practice Arabic, French and English, as I am multilingual and eager to keep them all. The funny thing the language that was the easiest for me was my third Language'English', and I had difficulties with my mother tongue which is Arabic.
One day, while sitting with my parents who are my support system I reminisced my teaching days and how much I wished to help my students (I couldn't teach in large auditorium until recently, as the noise and commotion could affect my healing process).
Unhesitatingly, they both said: "Well, you can always do it!" and that was a turning point for me. They asked me to start writing about my'success' and how I was battling to overcome the challenges. And there, I said to my father the Lord rest his soul in peace: "Daddy, do you remember your words when I was at a critical stage in the first months? "
His words will be stuck in my mind forever: "Hind, you are a brave girl, and trust me you are stronger and smarter than you think. You are going to be better than before, for Almighty and Most Merciful God loves you. " My dad knew that my little brain loves challenges since I was a kid, especially when it comes to school. I have it in me.
In University, I chose Law School. A childhood wish that was closed to my heart. A dream of a little girl who admired her dad's job as a businessman and insurer. I remember being a good student in Morocco. When I followed lectures, I found that even the overview of subjects is very short to fully know all rules or enough to simply understand why we adopt certain rules and not others. So, I asked my dearest father to buy me law books and encyclopedias to prepare and read for the next lectures. Plus, reviewing my notes from the previous lectures had helped me a lot.
Being focused on achieving my goal, I came across the universe of knowledge and know-how where research lands are so abundant.
Although I had my bachelor's degree, I wanted to explore more in the field that I loved, and I still do. Exploiting this desire had many challenges and they came to me from different angles, until I arrived at my city of inspirations - Montreal, Canada. I can't forget Montreal University. I always miss my days in law library, my teachers, my friends and the convivial atmosphere to lean every day new things.
I found my inclination fulfilled; despite few obstacles sometimes I faced, my brain gained superior immunity. I completed my PhD thesis within deadline timeframe of three (3) years. Actually, truth be said, I completed the PhD in two (2) years, because I worked full time for one (1) year in Toronto as a legal advisor.
After this journey and its challenges, it was necessary to return back to Morocco for my father's happiness and his wish to help my motherland where my loyalty lies. The integration into the original source of my knowledge was a bit "soft" at first. Other challenges were ahead but my new challenge was to find effective ways to give my know-how to my law students.
And there, after three years of teaching, my little brain needed a break I guess and craved a holiday:
"My little genius: Hind, I want a long vacation, or I will leave the office.
My little genius: No, I was kidding. I want to explore the unknown a bit little using the theory of time. Don't worry, I will be back".
Often thinking about this nostalgic discussion of 2015 with my father who passed away the same year, and teaching seminars for Ph.D. students since 2017, the only practical way to feel useful for my students is to share my personal experience in term of educational context of the unfinished book of 2014. My first book after the expeditions of my brain who has kept its promise. I am back stronger than ever!
I must mention that my PhD students constantly ask for a toolkit to find the best way to achieve their goal. I hope that my contribution can help them and enhance their learning experiences.
Today, I finished my book which claims to be a precise tool (several professors have described it as an excellent initiative). In this context, always my source of inspiration is Montreal University. So, I take this opportunity to share my sincere gratitude to the Law Faculty. My heartfelt thanks to my professors and friends there, especially my prof. Guy LEFEVRE for his advice and his ability to listen. My friend prof. Amissi Manirabona for his friendship. I would also like to express my thankfulness to my neurosurgeon Prof. Philippe Cornu for his encouragement and trust in me. Prof. Cornu believes from the first time of my brain capacity to recovery and when I mentioned the project of my book, he said that it is an interesting step which can undoubtedly motivate new researchers to overcome all obstacles. The aim is to discover the tenacity and the confidence in our intellectual capacities are incredible and they are the catalyst for our success.
On terms of overcoming obstacles, I attended my first maritime conference last year in London, I travelled even though I was just leaving the hospital.
I sincerely hope that my challenge of the year 2019 will come true, despite clinical delays (e.g. surgery again and Covide-19 lockdown).
Finding a publisher is not easy!
However, I am convinced that my dream will come true. Giving up is not an option. With God's blessings, 2021 will be my year.
In short, as Einstein said: " Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving."