Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Brother repays sister for her love

By John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Thirty-eight years ago, a 16-year-old Egyptian boy named Mohab Elsamaloty dove into the Mediterranean Sea and broke his neck.

Doctors told his stunned family that he would be paralyzed the rest of his life. It was recommended he go to England for rehabilitation, accompanied by a family member.

Waffa Foad shares her home in Indian Hill with her brother, Mohab Elsamaloty.
(Mike Simons photo)
His older sister, Wafaa, who was finishing medical school, volunteered to go. She had, after all, been raised in a family where "loving, caring, and believing in God" were paramount. So she put her studies on hold for six months to help her brother adjust to a new life, which began with learning to sit in a wheelchair.

It was the first of a number of selfless acts of giving by the sister.

Wafaa Foad is 64 now, a doctor with a Kenwood practice in internal medicine. She and her husband, Salem Foad, a rheumatologist, moved to Cincinnati in 1970. They raised three children in Indian Hill: a daughter who is a dermatologist; a son finishing his residency in orthopedics, and a son studying economics at Emory University in Atlanta.

A few years after the Foads moved here, Salem suggested that Mohab, still in Egypt, come and take advantage of this country's high-quality medical care.

By the time Mohab arrived in Cincinnati with his mother, he had finished high school in Egypt and had earned a college degree. He was able to drive a specially outfitted car.

He and his mother found a place to live close to the Foads. Mohab wanted to continue his education, so he enrolled at the University of Cincinnati to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics.

The day after earning his doctorate in December 1983, Mohab suffered a stroke. It robbed him of the ability to speak, and worsened his paralysis. In his fragile condition, he needed more care than his mother could provide.

Wafaa and Salem Foad decided Mohab should move into their ranch-style home.

In some families, taking that step would have been difficult. But Wafaa Foad says her husband made it easy. "He'd say, 'Don't you ever think you are giving. God is giving. He's giving you a chance to help.' "

The Foads hired private duty nurses to care for Mohab, now 54. But when a caretaker has not been available, Wafaa brings her brother to work with her.

Because of his paralysis, Mohab can easily choke on food or drink, or even his own saliva, so the Foads must be ready to clear his throat.

Mohab appreciates all they have done. When asked what are the greatest gifts he has received from the Foads, he types these words on his computer: love, care and laughter.

The giving goes both ways.

In his bedroom is a bell he rings when he needs help.

One winter night more than 10 years ago, when everyone else was asleep, Mohab rang the bell. Wafaa awoke, but couldn't see. She turned on a light. Still dark. Smoke from the oil furnace had filled the house. She roused her family, and disaster was averted.

"We could have all died sleeping," she says.

She also credits her brother with inspiring her son (named Mohab, after his uncle) to pursue a career in orthopedics. And she says Mohab influenced one of his caretakers to pursue a nursing career. What's more, Wafaa says, he has made her a better doctor, more compassionate, "not just for the patients' needs, but for the families' needs."

But Mohab's greatest gift to his family may be the perspective he provides.

Spend some time with him, his sister says, "and you see how many blessings we have, that we don't even see."

One blessing she sees every day. His name is Mohab.


Everybody has a story worth telling. That's the theory, anyway. To test it, Tempo is throwing darts at the phone book. When a dart hits a name, a reporter dials the phone number and asks if someone in the home will be interviewed. Stories appear weekly.


E-mail jjohnston@enquirer.com

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