In Sharing Your Pain, Your Help Others Heal – A tribute to, Dr. Basem Oraby, a resident physician we lost in 2020

I did not know Dr. Basem Oraby but when I wrote a blog in memory of my aunt, Dr, Somaya Saad Zaghloul, who died of COVID-19 in Egypt on December 1, 2020, his sister, a clinical pharmacist, Bassant Orabi, reached out to me on Twitter and said sharing my aunt’s story gave her the courage to share her little brother’s. A beautiful soul, taken from us far too soon. My conversation with Bassant was heart-wrenching but reminded me that in sharing my pain, others heal too. Her tribute is movingly painful. Our paths crossed because of tragic circumstances, but somewhere in there is a glimmer of light. Read on for Bassant’s tribute.

I never thought I would experience something as painful as holding my dad in my arms at 2:00 am with my eyes fixated on the monitor watching his EKG flatten, but I was wrong. Four years later, I saw my little brother Basem in a coffin. But in that coffin was not just my brother’s body, with his passing went his dreams of becoming an attending physician, the goals he planned on crushing, his jokes and unmatched sense of humor, and his outpouring of love and support to anyone in need. I could not believe my brother was gone.

It took me a long time to write a tribute worthy of the legacy Basem left behind.  Although Bassem died at the young age of 25, he lived his life to the fullest. I look back to January 15, 1995, and I see this tiny baby whose little cries captured my heart immediately. Basem was the kindest among our family, never hesitating to offer a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on. He was a true family young man who loved and protected his family. I remember the countless times he comforted me during my most difficult times and I now wonder if I will ever feel that much unconditional love again? Although I am 10 years older than him, he was and will always be my hero.

Basem was a loyal friend to many. It became even more evident by the outpouring of love from his friends all over the world after his death. His compassion and love for everyone were unsurpassed. He always went the extra mile for those he loved and cared about and always believed in saying only what was good. His beautiful heart and tender soul drew many to him. As I read countless messages from his professors, I got to know Basem as the brilliant physician he was. Losing our father was not easy on him, yet he found the will in himself to graduate from Weill Cornell Medical School in Qatar. Everything he did, he did with perseverance. He moved thousands of miles to pursue his dreams to train in internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University Health in Richmond, Virginia. He took pride in serving veterans and disadvantaged patients. I remember him being so proud to have diagnosed a case of cardiac amyloidosis, it was clear that medicine was his passion. Basem felt medicine was a career of helping people out of their dark roads. He was the compassionate doctor I wanted to see in an emergency department. 

Basem was a generous soul who never hesitated to help others in need. Basem was the 9-year-old kid who gave all his money to a taxi driver who could not afford the cost of his daughter’s chemotherapy, he was the teenager who supported refugees from his undergraduate scholarship stipend, and he was the young doctor who brought food to many who could not afford it.  I still cry that he died alone in America with no one around him, but soon I remember that such a beautiful soul is never alone. Every time I remember how much he wished he would come to visit us and how proud he was to be working and helping during a pandemic, I realize that he lived the life of giving he wanted.

I used to stand by his grave and weep, there was a hole in my heart that grew every day since we were informed of his death until the day then I realized that his true journey had just begun.  Though he is no longer with us, his love and support shower us. I think of all the charity work he contributed to including water wells, tents, education packages, medical glasses, and food among many other projects done in his name in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Even after his death, his legacy remains. I am inspired to be the best version of myself to make him proud.  

I wish his friends, colleagues, all those who knew him, and us, his family, continue his legacy of love, compassion, generosity, and kindness. I also ask you all to keep him in your prayers. Basem will always be a beautiful part of our journey. I will always carry you in my heart Basem.

In sharing my pain, I was able to help Bassant start her journey to healing. There is a power in vulnerability. You touch lives. As the late, great Dr. Maya Angelou told us, a legacy is every life you touch. Touch as many as you can.

[This is the last photo Dr. Basem Oraby took with his family at the airport before heading to the US for residency]
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