grateful for ali day

that is a bit of a pun, an inside joke somewhat widely known in the northern VA muslim community. but it's also very serious... it's what we titled the party we held in honor of ali yunus, a guy who's always been like my own little brother... because the grace of God gave him a second chance at a nutshell: ali, 25 and gym-fit, suffered a heart attack on may 4, 2008, the result of a still-unknown virus that by some unfathomable fluke infected his heart muscle. he was living at the time at my brother's place in sterling, va., and this was about 3 a.m., when normally the whole house would be asleep... but my lazy, night-owl brother was still up, watching TV downstairs. so it was that he heard the "thump" when ali passed out and came to again, and went to check on him... first responders thought he was just dehydrated, but after they discovered further problems and airlifted him from loudoun co. general to the inova heart institute in fairfax, he went into cardiac arrest in the helicopter. at the hospital, on a pacemaker, he told me, "guess what? i DIED!" with a big grin on his face. but the pacemaker didn't seem to be steadying his heart, and two days later he was going into multiple organ failure and asking his sister to pay off his debts. so the excellent doctors wheeled him down into surgery and spent hours attaching ventricular assist devices (VADs) to both sides of his heart... where they would remain for the next two and a half months, over three times the average length of time for patients with VADs. most of that time, ali's temperature fluctuated between low-grade and high-grade fevers, and most of that time we knew that the chances of him getting out of this without a transplant were 15-20 percent - barring any other complications that might make the outcome even worse. and there WERE complications - the ongoing, unexplained fevers, fluid buildup in his chest cavity that had to be drained... but slowly, slowly his diseased heart began to heal, and by late july they were able to consider taking out the VADs - an exhaustive, nine-hour surgery. and with the VADs out, his recovery sped up remarkably; he was discharged aug. 4, three months to the day he had been admitted. then followed a four-month cardiac rehabilitation program - for ali, the biggest thing was to finally be out of the hospital, at a place he could call home, even if he was living with his sister and brother-in-law. watching his speech return to normal, watching him gain weight, watching him return to himself, all of this was one of the greatest blessings our family and friends have ever known. so we went all-out to surprise him with this party, and surround him with the close friends who prayed for him and supported his family during the hardest times. now... on a regular basis i don't have much photographic equipment with me - yet! so the following shots are all taken with the new 50 mm 1.8, and either without flash at ISO 400-1600 (which can be pretty grainy on the rebel XT) or with the only flash i had - the awful popup thing on the rebel. still, i had some fun with it! these are just a handful of the shots i wanted to help share this story...

here is ali at the party, listening to one of the many speeches made about him:


here are a couple of detail shots from the party: the beautiful party favors that ali's sister, raheela - my dear friend - put together, and the gorgeous wegman's chocolate cake that was served among the desserts:



this was how we welcomed ali into the room - one of the strands hitting his face is being gleefully sprayed by my brother :)


and here are, of course, a couple of shots of my son and my nephew, always the life of the party! these two got special mention in the speeches, due to all the comic relief they provided ali's family during long - make that loooooooooooong - hours in the hospital waiting room...



a shot of me with ali's sister, raheela... just placed ourselves badly in the light, but what can i do when i'm on this side of the lens?


and finally... here's one of the issues i had taking vertical shots with the 50 mm lens on my cropped sensor... found myself tilting to fill the frame a little better... the couple shot came out better (these are two friends of ali's family who helped out tremendously at the party) but, still... here they are!


that's it for now...

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