Survivor of Somali Civil War establishes love, work, and home in Seattle

Fadumo Daud heard a bomb coming, but she could not escape it. She was a child then, with her younger sister beside her. Those who heard the bomb coming either ran or laid themselves down. “(When bombs near) people go somewhere they think is safe,” Fadumo said.
Today, Fadumo lives in Seattle’s Columbia City, with her loving husband, Ahmed, and her three sons. With help from Seattle Milk Fund, her youngest son attends preschool, and her two older sons attend after-school programs while Fadumo works toward a bachelor’s degree in respiratory care at Seattle Central College.
When we talk about why she studies respiratory therapy, Fadumo says her path to medicine began in 1991 – and she takes us to the day.


When Fadumo was 8 years old, she lived happily with her mother and five younger siblings in Somalia. Then war came.
It seemed inconceivable that a small militia would permanently wipe out the government. But the war worsened; the president of Somalia fled. And suddenly, there was no running water, no electricity, no regulation. Fadumo’s family could not flee. Around their house, bullets screamed.
One day, while her young mother went out to search for food, Fadumo and her 7-year-old sister Faiza left their siblings at home and went out in search of clean water.


Fadumo and Faiza carried plastic jugs. They passed a mansion under construction. A man was in the doorway, watching. The watchman called to the girls. He saw the jugs and offered water from a well there. The girls were full of joy. They lined up and the man filled their jugs with fresh water. Then, in the air – there was the distinct sound of an incoming bomb.
“We heard the noise. And it was coming to us directly,” Fadumo said. “There was nothing we could have done differently.”
The house was unfinished. They were standing on rugs. When the bomb hit, everything became shrapnel. The rugs crawled up legs, burning them. The explosion hit the watchman and Faiza.
“They became pieces,” Fadumo said. “My sister and him – their bodies became unknown.”
Fadumo’s leg split in two. She was the first to wake from unconsciousness.
I opened my eyes,” she said. “All I see is white ash. … I don’t hear anybody screaming, anybody talking. I just hear, ‘eh, eh.’ Somebody is making little noise. I think my sister was dying.
On her injured leg, she crawled through small rocks to an outdoor gate. At the gate, she screamed for help. But everyone was running for their lives. A man eventually helped her. He put her inside of a wheelbarrow and ran. Everything went blank. Fadumo woke up on a table at the hospital.


The sun was setting when Sadiyo, Fadumo’s mother, returned with food. Sadiyo learned from her neighbors that Faiza died and Fadumo was at a hospital, but no one knew which.
She and her neighbors walked to the mansion. There, they found Faiza, the watchman and another young girl dead. She and neighbors collected the remains and buried Faiza and the little girl together in the ground. After the burials, Sadiyo found Fadumo.
My mom came, and she kissed me from the top. And she said, ‘You’re going to be fine. I’m here. I found you.
They had to amputate Fadumo’s left leg. Fadumo remembers braiding her hands together in prayer and promising, “God, if you save my life today, I will help your needy ones.”


Sadiyo soon decided the family needed to flee Somalia. Fadumo was still recovering. The family had to walk, and they took turns helping Fadumo. They reached a refugee camp in Kenya and lived there until 1996, when they were processed as refugees to Seattle.
“God saved me,” Fadumo said. “I think my purpose was to come here (to Seattle) and have a life.”
In Seattle, Fadumo visited a doctor for the first time since her leg was amputated. Doctors at Harborview inspected the wound and found an infection. They said her leg would have to be re-amputated. A nurse at Harborview, who lost her leg in a boating accident, came to Fadumo to show her a prosthetic.
“She walked in,” Fadumo remembered. “And she showed me her leg, and she was wearing a sandal. And I was so excited. I said, ‘I could wear that sandal, and I could get that leg, and I could walk again with sandals. Yes, I will do the surgery.’” In 1997, they re-amputated her leg and gave her a prosthetic. She has walked ever since.


“I’ve seen people, coming from left and right helping me through, helping me walk again,” Fadumo said. It’s why she studies medicine. After graduating high school in Seattle, she worked for years as a caregiver. She remembers one night sleeping with her second baby, when he was very little, and musing, “I need to fulfill my promise to God that I will help serve humanity.”
She went back to school. She studied through pregnancy, the birth of a child and her
mother-in-law’s breast cancer diagnosis. “She was having a hard time breathing at the end,” Fadumo said of her mother-in-law. 
I see breath – and I see that we take it for granted.” She reflected both on her mother-in-law’s struggle breathing and her struggle breathing when she was a child in the hospital in Somalia. She was moved to study respiration. 


While searching for affordable childcare, Fadumo found the Seattle Milk Fund, and quickly saw how their Family Connections Program would make finishing college possible. Her boys would have their own educational opportunities, while she attended classes and did additional clinical work. She applied to the Seattle Milk Fund and was accepted in 2017.
“I was so happy,” said Fadumo. “It gave me safety and security to continue my education. I have to work hard and the life I left behind is still imprinted in my mind.”
As Fadumo nears graduation day this spring, she reflects on what receiving her degree will mean to her sons.
I want my children to look back and see what I did in my life, and look how far I came,” Fadumo said. “From the war, my education. And take notice of that and say, ‘If my mom did it, I can do it, too.
Fadumo will soon be studying for her final exams and will begin applying for respiratory therapist positions just as soon as she graduates. We wish her and her beautiful family all the best as she begins her career helping others.

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