Portrait: Mahir

As a 6 years old, I was hit by a car while crossing the road. This forever changed my life. 34 years on, I am an English teacher, Arabic Interpreter & Translator and writer.

A little bit about Mahir 

I am an English teacher, Arabic interpreter, translator, and writer from the UK. I am currently teaching English at one of the top universities in Saudi Arabia.  

Back in 1988 when I was six years old, I was hit by a car while I was trying to cross the road. I was coming back from school on the bus, and the driver left me to cross the busy main road by myself. Following the accident, I was on a life support machine for three weeks. The accident had permanently broken off a large portion of the back of my skull causing hearing loss in my left ear. I had hemiparesis and Bell’s palsy, the inability to move the left side of my body and left half of my face, and I lost my voice. 


  Challenges experienced during recovery 

There were many challenges along the way but perhaps the 3 symptoms that are most challenging are understanding, remembering directions, and recurring Bell’s Palsy. I have tried various study skills and even tell my students about them but I seem to have difficulty sometimes grasping new concepts, especially related to practical skills, the most challenging of which was learning to drive. Somewhat related to that is remembering directions.

I have difficulty with this even when I have a map and sometimes, I get lost or go in the wrong direction even when I am walking.

One basic example of that was when I dropped off my family at the airport; as I went back to the car park, I could not remember where I was going and spent about 3 hours looking for my car before finally finding some officers to help me. The third problem is the recurring case of Bell’s Palsy. I normally cannot move the left half of my face but every so often I have an “attack” at irregular intervals. 

  Health specialists involved during  my rehab and recovery process  There were many medical professionals who helped me with my recovery including everything from general doctors, nurses, neurologists, neuropsychologists, neurorehabilitation specialists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) specialists, and ophthalmologists.  


My sources of support throughout recovery 

Many people have supported me along the way including my parents, siblings, family friends, managers, and others. As I needed a lot of help throughout my life, I wanted to help others. That was part of the reason why I wanted to become a teacher.

One of the people who has inspired me and continues to support me is my wife. She has been amazingly supportive and a great blessing to me.

There are two areas that stand out to me. Firstly, since the accident, I have had a fear of driving but my wife encouraged me to drive and supported me through this. Secondly, I have lacked confidence for most of my life so when I turned twenty, I wrote my first book. I did not publish it for another ten years until my wife encouraged me to write again. Now I have multiple books, translated books, and articles, some of which can be seen here https://worldofarabic.wordpress.com/. I have written a memoir about my experiences following the accident from age six to age thirty-seven. You can read the synopsis and some sample pages from my book here: https://www.diopress.com/hole-in-my-head 


The highs of my recovery journey  Perhaps being able to move independently to work as an English Teacher in Saudi Arabia was one of my biggest achievements. It was a big step and it was by no means easy but being independent gave me the opportunity to do things by myself and learn more. Not everything can be learned from a book such as practical skills, social interaction, and more. I missed out on many of these when I was younger. Being able to do those things by myself has been very valuable.  


The lows of my recovery journey   For me, the scariest part was that although I was always around people there were times when it felt like I was alone and that nobody understood me or had any idea what I was going through (part of mental health such as depression).

Perhaps at the time, there was a lack of awareness of mental health and limited resources so my knowledge of the incident was limited.

Having a support network helps, not simply online but in person.  


What advice would you give to other survivors?  Having spent a lot of time in and around hospitals during my childhood, I have realised that providing mental and emotional support is much more important than giving someone excessive gifts to “forget” their problems. For example, simply being there for someone in their hour of need, letting them know that they are not alone or forgotten, not rushing to place judgment, and helping them to move forward with independence can help them to live a normal and fulfilling life. At an individual level, I would advise people to be patient and have faith - there is light at the end of the tunnel.  


A quote that helped me navigate brain injury recovery 

The Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) said, "No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that." 

(Perhaps if I have lost something in this life, I hope that perhaps I might be rewarded with something better someday)  

Before you go, help us spread the word...