Khodr Farhat in 2017 reunited with his sisters after over eight years apart. Photo courtesy Khodr Farhat
Khodr Farhat in 2017 reunited with his sisters after over eight years apart.

With 10,000 Michiganders dead from the coronavirus, this family of survivors can think of no better holiday gift than safety.

DEARBORN, Mich.—While other families were planning their Thanksgiving dinners, Khodr Farhat’s family was planning coronavirus responses. 

Monday, Nov. 22, Farhat’s mother tested positive for the virus. Tuesday, so did his father. Wednesday, so did he. The three live together with Farhat’s two sisters, and almost all have unique challenges in navigating the coronavirus. Farhat and his sisters are all blind or low-vision, and his mother is diabetic. 

The state doesn’t track the number of Michiganders with disabilities who contract and die from the pandemic virus, but based on factors like difficulty navigating the system and underlying health conditions, the outcomes for disabled coronavirus patients are estimated to be worse than their peers. 

UP NEXT: Gov. Whitmer Extends Partial Shutdown for 12 More Days

Farhst knows this well. He’s active in Dearborn as a disability and education advocate. He’s keenly aware not just how challenging it can be reaching out to seek medical care as a Michigander with a disability, but also with a language barrier. His mother doesn’t speak English, so Farhat often accompanies her to doctors to act as a translator. 

Farhat’s family had varying experiences with the disease. At 27 years old, healthy, and regularly engaged in exercise, Farhat was exceptionally well positioned to endure the virus, and he survived, but the experience was something he wouldn’t wish on anyone. 

“The first week, the week of Thanksgiving … was very painful,” he told The ‘Gander “Very bad body aches, very bad headache that, even if you take Tylenol it didn’t go away to be honest with you. You feel like your calves, your thighs, your lower back area, were aching. Not like a regular ache. You’re honestly a bit slowed down, you’re out of energy, you can’t smell, you can’t taste.” 

Infographic by Katelyn Kivel

Even now, three weeks from the onset of symptoms, Farhat’s sense of taste and smell has yet to fully return. And he’s aware he’s one of the lucky ones, some Michiganders have held far worse symptoms far longer than he has. 

His family wasn’t reckless, in fact they were quite stringent in their coronavirus safety measures. It saw them through the pandemic until the recent surge in cases that began at the end of October. Food was rarely touched directly before being prepared, he said, and masking up was second nature. Even with all those protections in place, Farhat’s family contracted the virus, and it led to his especially vulnerable mother being hospitalized. She’s still in the hospital, he told The ‘Gander, but it could have been much worse. 

“They did not allow anybody in,” he said. “Can you imagine, God forbid, losing someone in that situation? Where they are alone, you cannot see them, they can’t be seen by nobody? It’s just, it’s heartbreaking.”

He was grateful that Dearborn has such a diverse population, as the hospital had employees who could translate to Arabic for his mother.

RELATED: Biden Says He Will Ask All Americans to Wear Masks for ‘100 Days’

That’s why he encourages Michiganders to take this pandemic seriously. He said that if he was responsible for infecting someone especially vulnerable with the virus, he’d feel as if he had shot them.

“The best gift, this year, is making sure our family members and our loved ones are remaining safe,” Farhat said. “We should all act responsibly so we can flatten the curve.”

For the fourth time in a row, 50,000 people were infected with the coronavirus in Michigan. Tuesday marked another grim milestone—10,000 Michiganders have died from the virus. Thankfully, none of Farhat’s family are among that number. 

Despite everything this year has brought, Farhat is optimistic. He’s a positive person, he says, that’s just how he looks at the world. Through his faith, his family and his perspective, he remains an optimist in a difficult time. 

SEE ALSO: An Inside Look at Michigan’s Journey to a COVID-19 Vaccine

And the positive counterpoint to the milestone number of deaths is, based on current projections, Michigan will reach a less depressing milestone this week as well—200,000 recoveries. Soon, Farhat’s family will be counted among them.

“When you’re positive, you think about whatever is positive,” he said. “If you’re negative and you always look at the setbacks you’re not going to be able to think about what’s positive. You won’t be able to generate that positive energy that’s going to help you accomplish positive stuff.”