In the span of a week, 20-year-old Cambridge resident and University of Guelph student Farisa Navab went from being perfectly healthy to losing her life to a rare blood disorder she had just been diagnosed with.
Still processing her grief, Farisa’s younger sister and best friend Ammarah says she feels like her sister’s death hasn’t hit her yet.
“For some reason I just feel like she is at work and I'm just waiting for her to come home or something,” said Ammarah.
To keep her memory alive and to touch the world like she dreamed, her family in Cambridge launched a fundraiser hoping to raise $25,000 that will be used to build wells and support orphanages around the world.
The fundraiser launched by her sister raised $19,000 in its first week.
“We'd always have conversations like ‘What do you want to make sure happens before you died? She said, ‘After I die, I just want to make sure that I leave something in the world. I don't want anyone to forget who I am and I want to leave a positive impact on the world,’” said Ammarah.
“This is a good way of just leaving some sort of legacy for my sister. For every single person that will drink the water, she will be rewarded.”
Farisa was a third year biological science student at the U of G who also worked as a COVID screener at Cambridge Memorial Hospital.
Farisa said Ammarah had jaundice on Sept. 1 and was taken to the emergency department in Cambridge Memorial Hospital the next day where she tested positive for thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), a rare disorder with an unknown cause that leads to small blood clots, a drastic decrease in the amount of blood platelets in the body and destruction of red blood cells.
Once Farisa was diagnosed, she was transferred to Victoria Hospital in London where she underwent plasma transfusion. “Her platelet count was going up and then on Thursday it dropped significantly, and it wouldn't go back up,” said Ammarah.
On Sept 10, she was put on a medication called vincristine, to which she had a bad reaction.
“Her throat closed up so they stopped giving her. They only gave her half of a dose,” said Ammarah, who remembers seeing Farisa in the hospital on that night with a central line (a tube in the neck) laughing, smiling and joking with her.
“I went to visit her and she was crying. That was the last time I saw her, and I just said, ‘Oh, don't worry. We'll be back next week,’ because we keep making plans to go and see her,” said Ammarah.
The next morning Farisa’s heart stopped.
Ammarah said her sister suffered a cardiac arrest twice and had a slow pulse rate after she was resuscitated and needed surgery. However, she passed away on Sept. 11 before the surgery could take place.
Her funeral prayer was held the next day.
“My mom's eyes were swollen for a week, and like my dad, like, I've never seen my dad cry this much,” said Ammarah. “My grandma was really very upset because she was the first grandchild.”
Ammarah said every penny from the fundraiser will go to help someone in need.
“It's just a way to leave a positive message from somebody who has passed away,” said Amarrah.
“We're planning on building water pumps in every continent."
She said her family, which includes her parents and her younger sister Habibah, wants to personally go to orphanages around the world and help out.
“I'm still figuring out which orphanages exactly I want to donate to.” said Ammarah.
She said the community has been incredibly supportive in the last two week with her Instagram flooding with nearly 2,000 messages showing their support.
She said she knows Farisa would be touched by the change that would happen in her name.
“She's the kind of person that would always put everybody before her..she's the kind of person that no matter what, she cannot be mad at you for more than 15 minutes ... she was the kind of person where, you know she has a good heart, and you know she never means to do anything wrong. I don't think she's ever done anything wrong,” said Ammarah.
Ammarah said she is looking at the whole situation positively. “It’s these Islamic values that kind of really carried us throughout our lives,” she said.
“I feel like it's good that she left the world with no regrets and with happiness in her heart because she always had a happy heart and she said she wants to die with a happy heart,” said Ammarah.