A visit with Reza

One of the most rewarding groups that several of us have recently been a part of is the interfaith committee here in the town of Wilton. The committee goes by the name of Wi-ACT (standing for Wilton Interfaith Action Committee) with the motto “we act together for good.” The steering committee of Wi-ACT is made up of some 32 members from 10 faith institutions in our town, including several Protestant churches, the Catholic church, a Jewish synagogue and an Islamic Institute. The group also includes three teenage student members.

Two of its members are a husband-and-wife team from Iran who have lived in Wilton for the past 20 years with their own now-grown children. Hossein and Golnar Sadeghi are both doctors and considered to be expert leaders in the field of pediatric cystic fibrosis. Hossein works primarily at the Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia Medical School where he is on the faculty in New York City, and also with his wife at his pediatric pulmonary clinic in Stamford.

They travel back to Iran several times a year and on a trip last year brought back their first CF patient, a young man, for treatment at their clinic. Medicines and treatment for CF have been hard to obtain in their home country due to the sanctions imposed on their country several years ago and just recently lifted. Sadly, after three weeks here on treatment and a return to Iran, this patient was unable to survive with the limited suitcase of medicines that went home with him and died of the disease.

This past fall, Golnar informed Wi-ACT’s steering committee that she and Hossein wanted to bring another patient, a 17-year-old boy named Reza, over for similar treatment. Reza’s older brother had died a year before of CF, and the report was that he would have to get treatment here if he was to survive.

Our WI-ACT group immediately decided to help in any way that they could and arranged for special hotel rates at the Marriott on Route 7 and for food and transportation during Reza’s three weeks of treatment at the Sadeghis’ clinic in Stamford. The three weeks just recently ended, and Reza is now back in Tehran, but not without leaving Wi-ACT’S steering committee profoundly grateful for his visit.

I was lucky enough to have some two hours with Reza and his father on the last day before they went back — driving them around town and to one of our churches where some teenagers were putting on a church play that involved WI-ACT’s work, both in packaging food and welcoming a refugee family. As a result of his intravenous treatments, Reza was well enough and eager to take the two-hour tour, where we saw some town schools and even toured a supermarket before going back to their motel. His father, Aziz, owns a small shop in Tehran, and so both wanted to see some stores here to compare prices, which they said were “much bigger here!”

Reza’s English is amazingly good. He was able to tell me of the 13 subjects he takes in his junior year at high school and to interpret all kinds of information for his father, who only speaks maybe 30 words of our language.

By the end of the three weeks, Reza had gained about six pounds since his arrival, and the Sadeghis think that with the medicine now available, they may have given him at least six years more of life and hopefully many more years if treatment is improved in his home country or if a cure is found for his form of CF.

Three days before leaving to fly back, the Sadeghis hosted a reception at the Stamford clinic which a number of steering committee members attended. They were delighted to see Reza looking active, happy and even enthusiastic. Reza gave the speech here (as translated into English by the Sadeghis’ daughter, Donya) and there was hardly a dry eye in the house! For all the committee members it was tremendously satisfying to know that we had been part of a process to save the life of a gallant young man from another country — who now hopes to be a doctor himself some day.