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From left to right: the author's grandmother, the author, the author's younger brother Liam, the author's older brother Jake, and the author's grandfather. (Photo provided by Author)

My grandmother survived a forced exile from her home country, Egypt, due to religious persecution. She has been fighting leukemia for the past five years. Even at 85 years old, she remains sharp and active, participating in book clubs, stock clubs, bridge clubs, political discussion groups, and volunteer organizations. Something as mundane as a Ford Fusion speeding around the corner of 21st and Chestnut streets should not have left her in the operating room with half her hair shaved off, tubes connected to her brain to monitor for seizures, and a ventilator strapped to her face to ensure she continues to breathe. My grandmother wanted to buy groceries. She now rests in a medically induced coma at Penn Presbyterian Hospital with a broken neck, clavicle, collarbone, cheekbone, and a shattered eye socket that has swollen her eye shut.

Growing up, I never understood how people failed to get along with their grandparents. My friends would tell horrific stories where they were forced to take excruciating long drives to see their mean, judgmental, and boring grandparents. This all sounded like an oxymoron to me. I realized, though, that I was and am lucky. Given that I share my middle name, Andre, with my grandmother’s first name, I was bound to have a close connection with her. Little did I know that as I grew older, my connection with my grandmother would become so much more than a shared name. My grandmother became my friend, my closest confidant (sorry Mom), and my role model. 

To many outsiders, my grandmother is another unfortunate tale demonstrating a troubling amount of hit and runs occurring throughout Philadelphia, another depressing story that you may hear on the 11:00 p.m. local news and never think about it again. In all honesty, I know that there’s a good chance this column, too, will be read and quickly forgotten. I’ve been there. I have heard heart wrenching stories about families that have lost someone close to them and forgotten about them the next day. As a part of this story, however, I cannot simply forget and move on. Struggling to watch YouTube news clips about my grandmother leaves me feeling hopeless and frightened, long after I have finished the video.

My grandmother’s sudden and surprising health scare has placed many things in perspective for me. Environments like Penn that place a premium on pre-professionalism can easily create atmospheres in which students place an excessive amount of attention on club applications and difficult classes. While important, at the end of the day, you will forget about the clubs that denied you, the time you spent in office hours, and the bad grade you received on a midterm. As busy students, we tend to lose sight of the important relationships that we form, focusing too much on our academic and professional next step. Personally, I am constantly stressed by my never ending CIS 160 work. While I care about the class, I know that, 10 years from now, I will not remember the induction proof that stumped me on one homework. I will, however, remember my grandmother and my friends who supported me through this time.

Perhaps, more importantly, I have learned  the value in saying “thank you.” The ease at which it takes you to say these two words draws no parallels to their effect on other people. Saying thank you is easy; hearing a thank you, gratifying. Start saying thank you to the dorm building security guards who help keep us safe. Start saying thank you to the dining hall employees who ensure that we are fed. Start saying thank you to your friends, family members, and professors for all the little things they do for you that you have come to take for granted.

My grandmother’s health scare has led me to say “thank you” more as of late. I want to say thank you to my friends, family members, and professors who have supported and aided me as I struggle through this time. Thank you to the witnesses who rushed to my grandmother’s aid as soon as her body fell to the ground. Thank you to the nurses who spent hours upon hours trying to help my grandmother recover.

And to Grandma, thank you for always helping me with my French homework, for always knocking some common sense into me, and for always buying me clothes I didn't even know I needed. While you likely will never be able to read this, I hope that you will find a way to hear my message.

The driver that left my grandmother in the hospital quickly fled the scene and has yet to be found by the police. If anyone has information pertaining to the incident, I ask that you please call the police at 215-686-TIPS. If not, please share, repost, and like this article with as many people as possible to ensure that we can find somebody with information. Finally, I have one request on behalf of my grandmother: for the past year, my grandmother has been writing stories about her life experiences to post on her own blog. If you could go and check it out, my family would all really appreciate it. It would mean the world to my grandmother. 

If anyone else is going through similar troubles and needs a friend to talk to, please don’t be afraid to reach out to me.

DANIEL ANDRE GUREVITCH is a College sophomore studying political science and philosophy from Wynnewood, Pa. His email is dgure@sas.upenn.edu.

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