Farida Yasmin has been confined to a bed since November 16, 2007 -- the day she slipped into a coma following a surgery. The doctors said she has no, or little, chance of ever waking from her deep sleep.
But her husband, Munshi Nurunnabi Ahmed, refused to give up on his wife without a fight.
It has been a gruelling 14 years for this doting husband who left no stone unturned to make sure his wife gets all the care, love, and treatment possible.
An engineer by profession, Ahmed has also personally been tending his beloved wife with unfailing love -- feeding, bathing and dressing her, and turning her over regularly to avoid bedsores -- often sacrificing his own sleep.
He turned a room in his house in Dhaka into a makeshift ICU unit with all the necessary equipment. Ahmed also took training to ensure he himself could do proper nursing round the clock.
"It has been a daily dose of inspiration for me for the last 14 years," Ahmed told The Daily Star, as he sits by his wife, lying in absolute stillness, still carrying the hope she will wake from her deep slumber.
The daily regiment includes feeding the recumbent patient intravenously, administering the prescribed medicines, and changing her position every two hours.
Since Farida breathes with the support of a tracheostomy, there is always the risk of saliva blocking the tracheostomy point, leading to suffocation. She needs someone by her round the clock to watch for this.
The driving force behind Ahmed's struggle was his uncompromising love for Farida.
"She talks to me with her tears. When I say something, she responds with her tears," Ahmed said.
"Love is pristine and people say so. But if you ask me, our love is now only confined to tears," said Ahmed with a crack in his voice.
A LONG, ARDUOUS ROAD
Ahmed and Farida tied the knot on April 18, 1986. The couple lived in Rangpur, Dinajpur, and Bogura before finally settling down in Pabna, where Farida was a primary school teacher.
In 2007, Farida was diagnosed with a tumour in her uterus. She came to Dhaka from Pabna on leave to consult a doctor and learned she needed to be operated on soon.
At the time, the couple's elder daughter had just passed her HSC exams and the younger one was preparing for her SSC exams.
"After that [diagnosis], we could not stay in Pabna," Ahmed said.
Recalling those desperate days, Ahmed said doctors were against an immediate operation as Farida had breathing difficulties and a cough.
"The doctor who would perform the operation sent my wife to a chest specialist, who after performing some tests, said she could be operated on once the cough disappeared significantly."
But a renowned surgeon the family turned to for advice said the cough was a small matter and there was no reason to fear from an immediate operation.
"We all respect doctors. So, after getting assurance from the surgeon, Farida decided to go under the knife," he said.
The last words the duo exchanged were when Farida was being taken to the operation theatre.
"Farida told me, 'When I return to my senses, I want to see your face first,'" Ahmed said.
"During the operation, we heard screaming inside the operation room. I wanted to go inside but they did not allow me.
"At one stage, I entered and the doctor said her condition was very serious and she needed to be taken to the ICU," Ahmed recalled.
While the doctors reactivated her heart function using CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), Farida sadly never regained consciousness.
After repeated requests to the hospital authorities, they were allowed to shift her to a specialised hospital.
Initially, the on-duty emergency doctors at the specialised hospital refused to admit Farida, saying the patient was almost dead.
Upon request, the doctors admitted her and Farida was taken to the ICU, where she remained for three and half months.
At that hospital, Ahmed came across a doctor who helped the family a lot.
"I was not sure whether I would see such a great human being in the world. He tried his best to cure my wife. The ICU was very costly, but he charged the minimum cost. He also personally helped us," Ahmed said.
"That doctor advised me to create an ICU at home. He also helped me to take training for treating such patients in the facility, although outsiders were strictly prohibited," he said.
In March 2008, Ahmed brought Farida home to a specially-designed room where she has remained ever since.
Two fans run round the clock, even in the winter. The room is connected with various electrical support so that there were no power disruptions, and is equipped with oxygen, a suction machine, and a pulse monitor.
"It has been only two to three times we took her to the hospital with an ambulance for some emergency tests," said Ahmed.
As it is a difficult task to care for such a patient 24/7, Ahmed -- who is still working -- also employed two nurses to constantly tend to his wife.
While he discharged his responsibility, he also made sure their two daughters -- Nusrat Nabi Badhan and Nowrin Nabi Swarna -- stayed away.
"I made arrangements for their marriages outside the country. Since they will have their own families, they need peace of mind."
As Ahmed was speaking to this correspondent, Farida was lying on the special medical bed. In the room, is another bed where he sleeps at night.
"When she is faced towards the spare bed, she does not sleep. As I pray to the Almighty, I find tears rolling down her eyes. She can feel it but can't express it.
"I don't know what to term it. You can call it a silent love," he said.
"She is closer to me than ever before."
At the end of last year, Ahmed was in for another shock. He contracted Covid-19 and subsequently infected his wife as well. Both of them, however, recovered.
While medical science and technology have improved a lot, it is yet to reach that level to cure patients like Farida, he said.
But Ahmed remains as optimistic as ever.
"I hope that day will come and she will again see the beautiful world," he said.
"We pray to the Almighty to cure her, at least once, so that she can see we are trying to keep her well. Our daughters want their mother to call them by their names again."