Ahmad Kakar, Director of IT at Adventist Health Lodi Memorial, has studied, lived and worked in the Sacramento area for over 20 years. When he joined Adventist Health in January of 2020, he had no idea that COVID-19 was about to change everything.
“It was like a punch in the face for everyone,” Ahmad recalls. “You’re shifting, and you’re doing your best to help the organization, your team, and ultimately the patient lives entering the hospital, all while leading in something that’s uncharted.”
But this was far from the first time Ahmad has navigated huge challenges.
In 1994, when he was very young and after several years of civil war in Afghanistan, Ahmad’s home was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. As a result, he and his family left Afghanistan for Pakistan, and then moved to St. Louis, where his parents both worked over the next few years to put him and his sisters through school.
“During this time, we were getting acclimated to a new culture and a new language,” says Ahmad.
A few years later, his family relocated one more time to Sacramento, where they have lived since. When Ahmad was in high school, a surprising new hardship changed his life’s trajectory when his father was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia at the young age of 51.
“For the first 5 or 10 years, it was manageable,” Ahmad shares.
But when his dad’s health took his turn for the worse in 2016, Ahmad made a commitment to support his parents in any way he could.
“I had been exposed to people who were bed-bound, and one person trying to take care of that person is just impossible,” Ahmad explains. “It takes a heavy toll on the caregiver. I knew that my mom needed to have her time with family and herself, and not feel like she’s doing this all alone.”
Since becoming bed-bound, Ahmad’s father has endured multiple hospitalizations. He depends on a feeding tube and can no longer speak, although he can communicate occasionally with body language. Ahmad has been there through all of it.
“Because of the 24/7 needs of my father’s care and supervision, the only times that my mom and I are in the car together is when my dad is in the hospital,” Ahmad shares. “It has made life very, very difficult.”
"I knew that my mom needed to have her time with family and herself, and not feel like that she’s doing this all alone."
Although the future is uncertain for Ahmad’s family, he says he finds day-to-day strength in his faith.
“In the Quran there is a verse that says, ‘With every hardship comes ease,’ and this is something that my mom has always said,’” he shares. “Through scripture and prayer, you realize that as difficult as life can be, inside you have the strength to overcome something that may seem impossible.”
Ahmad also finds strength from the past. “My parents taught me appreciation for the things that you do have, no matter how small it is,” he says.
For now, one of those things is quality time with his dad. “At first, I saw this as a struggle, but now I see it as an opportunity to get really close to him,” Ahmad says. “It’s been an opportunity to appreciate life.”