Friday, July 19, 2024

Help is truly a family affair

Donny Comerford with aunt Philomena Comerford; mother Mary; and Taxi driver Noor Bhuiyan.

“From the first day we met, I realized that Mary needed help,” says Toronto Taxi driver Noor Bhuiyan, recalling the first time he picked up Mary Comerford and her adult son Donny. “She had a lot of things to worry about, and she needed help.”

Donny has suffered from frequent, debilitating seizures for about half of his life.  From the first time Mary called a cab for a hospital trip and Noor pulled up almost five years ago, Mary and Noor became a team, seeing Donny through some of his most challenging times.

Donny is a big man, and at his worst seizures were loud, angry and physical. Noor, however, remained calm and unperturbed at all times.

“Noor had such an amazing, calming effect on Donny,” Mary laughs. “Donny was putty in his hands.”

“I was not bothered,” Noor says. “I understood Donny when he got ‘seizure-ish.’”

In summer 2021, Donny had surgery to remove the injured parts of his brain in what is called a “partial lobectomy.” The surgery was a huge success, and Donny is himself again, without the endless debilitating seizures that had marked his life for almost 20 years.

I understood Donny when he got ‘seizure-ish.’

Everyone is feeling grateful and optimistic about the years ahead for Donny, who is looking forward to a life without constant seizures.

Donny Comerford was a healthy boy until he suffered a brain infection, encephalitis, at age four. CT scans at the time showed infections sites on his brain, and as the years passed, those sites became more problematic for Donny and his family.

“He lived an active, normal life until about 25 years old,” his mother Mary explains, “although he had had seizures from about the age of 12. In his mid-twenties, the sites in his brain that were infected as a child began causing frequent, serious, grand mal seizures.”

The next fifteen years of Donny’s life were challenging and difficult for everyone.

“Sometimes, when he is having seizures, Donny is not in his right mind,” Mary says. “His personality when he is having a seizure is nothing at all like who he really is…Noor’s personal skills have been invaluable during all of this time. He is so calm, it allows us to help Donny calm down.”

While Noor has driven Mary and Donny to a lot of doctor and hospital appointments, probably the most memorable trips for Mary were the nights when Donny stomped away from home in a fit of anger. She would call Noor to pick her up and using the GPS locator on Donny’s phone, follow him from a discrete distance until she was able to walk up to join him and persuade him first to take his medications; and then, to get in the cab with Noor and go home.

“Donny never argues about getting in the cab with Noor,” she laughs.

Noor became such a part of the family that he once drove all the way to Marmora, Ontario to pick up Mary’s brother when he hurt his back.

“We came here to provide opportunity for our kids. Opportunity for ourselves, yes, but more importantly, opportunity for our kids.”

One of Noor’s favourite memories is of the evening he took Mary and Noor to his home for a special dinner prepared by his wife, Farzana.

“My wife understands,” Noor explains with affection and pride. “She understands everything, and cares about everyone.”

My wife understands everything and cares about everyone.

In Bangladesh, Noor worked as a marketing manager for a real estate developer.  In 2009, he immigrated to Canada with his wife and one son, now has two sons and a daughter and is looking forward to some very busy years ahead:

“In Bangladesh, both my wife and I earned Masters’ degrees in business,” he notes, “and now she is back at school earning an ECE. When she is finished, I will go back and take a program, I haven’t decided on what yet.”

To young people getting started in Canada, Noor advises, “Build up yourself before you start your career. Upgrade your education level, work on your English. Take a program of study BEFORE you start working if you can. Looking back, I should have done that; but who knows when you are just starting and everything is new? To young people today I would say, ‘Build yourself up before you start your career.’”

Noor is committed to his family’s success in Canada: “We came here to provide opportunity for our kids. Opportunity for ourselves, yes, but more importantly, opportunity for our kids.”