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Wajahat Ali On A Stranger's Liver Donation


Wajahat Ali is a pundit, a public intellectual, a talking head who appears in The New York Times and on CNN. And he's tweeted and talked in recent days a lot about what you might expect, the whistleblower and impeachment, Pelosi and Trump, Russia, Ukraine, blah, blah, blah. But nothing has been more important than this news. His 3-year-old daughter Nusayba, who had stage 4 liver cancer, got the liver transplant she needs and is recovering. Wajahat joins us in our studios. Thanks so much for being with us.

WAJAHAT ALI: But I'm not a doctor.

SIMON: (Laughter).

ALI: According to South Asians, I'm still a failure. But I've succeeded in life...

SIMON: Yeah.

ALI: ...Because I have Nusayba. And she is alive and smiling and well thanks to an anonymous live donor, who came through at the last second...

SIMON: Yeah.

ALI: ...And gave a piece of his liver, which is now in my daughter's belly. And she lives. What more can we ask for? My life is complete.

SIMON: We can reveal his name, too, can't we?

ALI: Shawn Zahir. I want to share one quick story. I have many stories. The surgeon said to me - and this was one we still didn't know his name - he said, listen, you're very lucky and your daughter's very lucky because she got the liver of a good man. I've done this surgery many times. Most people when they wake up they say, when can I get back to work? When can I play sports? The first question that he asked was, when can I donate blood again?

SIMON: Yeah. Nusayba was all set up for an initial transplant, but these things are unpredictable - didn't work out.

ALI: Gut punch at the last second. The donor, who was an acquaintance of mine, who had never met Nusayba - and I can finally reveal her name because the text just came through, Scott, that she gave me permission - Megan Black was willing to donate a piece of her liver. Her entire family was on board. And at the last second, the lead doctor, Dr. Fishbein, who's been doing this for 30 years, saw a complication, called it off. Megan was crying. Her family was crying. She apologized. But if it wasn't for Megan stepping up and for this bad news, we wouldn't have done the call out. And we wouldn't have gotten Shawn. So we also owe Megan a huge gratitude. Thank you, Megan.

SIMON: Boy. Nusaybe, you've been able to - she's been able to talk to you and Sarah.

ALI: They have taken out her NG tube. So I've seen her face for the first time in months. And she's happy. And she's - I just showed you a photo of her.

SIMON: Yeah, oh, my God.

ALI: She's cute. Yeah, I know.

SIMON: What have you learned through this?

ALI: I have learned never to underestimate people's capacity for goodness. Like you mentioned, I'm very opinionated. I have many trolls. Even my biggest critics, people who boycott me, have reached out and said, we are praying for your daughter, and we applied to be donors. And people - strangers - I just want to tell people that over 500 people applied to be living donors.

SIMON: Yeah.

ALI: And the final thing I'll say is the liver grows back. Did you know this?

SIMON: I learned it from you, actually. yeah.

ALI: So if you're listening - donate blood, donate plasma, and you can save someone's life by being a live liver donor.

SIMON: And as is written in both - I'm sorry (laughter) - oh, as it's written in both the Quran and the Talmud, he who saves one life...

ALI: It's as if you save humankind. So Shawn and his family have saved my daughter's life. My life belongs to them.

SIMON: Wajahat Ali, thank you so much.

ALI: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF NIKLAS AMAN'S "PASSING BLOCKS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.