Dr. Roohina Sattar

A Life of Love

By Nikhat Sattar | April 2022

Together, we traversed the same broken road for 13 years to meet our mother in her resting place; now I traverse it to meet both. It was a short life, with her; it will be a long one, without.

She breathed her last at 2:30 am on March 17, 2022. How difficult it is to write these words; to speak of her in the past tense. For a sister who lived with her for well over 60 years, she was the best guide, mentor, counsellor, confidante, companion and doctor. Without her, this is a life one can live no longer. She lifted one from low spirits at times of sorrow, hiding her own and kept one afloat until one could move on. We worshipped, read, listened to music, watched our favourite television serials and laughed together. We shared the same likes and dislikes, the only difference being in approach: her’s being a more balanced one. One’s most routine actions and the most important ones were done with her approval and blessings. The daily schedule was planned around her OPDs and hospital rounds.

A diagnosis of stage 4 renal cancer carries a 12 % survival rate of five years with the best of drugs. She had decided to giver herself a chance, I knew, for my sake. But the malignant cells multiplied manifold as she suffered successive treatments and their debilitating side effects. Even as one refused to believe, she was aware. Not a single complaint did she make, to God or to us.

One is assailed by doubt: would she have suffered less without the medicines?

Every moment of her last months was testimony to how she had lived her entire life: a quiet but determined struggle against all odds, keeping her troubles to herself, lending herself to easing the pain of others and an unwavering faith in God. She ignored her own wellbeing, was always available to patients, their relatives and own extended family; giving them time, listening to their troubles and seeing to their health, at the cost of her own. Scores of her patients kept returning to the hospitals she worked at, praying for her. Her friends, senior colleagues and contemporaries, students, relatives and even those who had met her only a few times, send messages now, describing her with one voice, as if they had colluded to do so. She was the best doctor and human being they had met: the kindest, most humble and unassuming, compassionate and wise person. She had a ready smile for everyone and even in her pain, never mentioned her illness.

The deterioration of the quality and morals of the medical cadre, especially in Pakistan, saddened her deeply. She held her medical vows close to heart and practised the highest degree of morality and professional and personal ethics, advocating fairness and merit. She was the rare physician who spent time with her patients, ordered only the tests necessary for diagnosis and prescribed only the necessary medicines that would cure her patient. Her fees were modest and varied according to the patient’s financial situation. She was known for her assessment and diagnostic skills and ability to build patient relationships. People came from far flung rural areas of Sindh and Balochistan and she would see them even while managing her own pain. She supported many to survive and educated their children. A fiercely independent soul, she demonstrated equality between all human beings, in her wide ranging interactions with different strata of society, rich and poor alike.

One still oscillates between hope and despair; perhaps she has just gone to the hospital and will return soon to have lunch with me.


The writer is a development professional, researcher, translator and columnist with an interest in religion and socio-political issues. She can be reached at

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2 thoughts on “A Life of Love

  • April 13, 2022 at 5:29 pm

    Dear Nikhat baji Assalaamalekum
    This is Shagufta Mateen (shaggo) I hope you remember we lived in. Chittagong Iam chach Bano’s daughter najo Baji’s cousin
    I still remember ruhina baji she was a devoted person May Allah shower his blessings upon her and give you patience ameen

  • April 17, 2022 at 1:48 pm

    Dr Roohina was two years junior to me. She graduated from Lahore while I graduated from Dow Medical College, Karachi. We were RMOs together and always had a good understanding.
    She went to England from her MRCP and upon her return, she again joined our hospital as a consultant. We used to meet at tea breaks along with Dr Shaheen. Somebody would bring tea, sugar and milk. Sometimes Mr Nagi, a former GsK rep, would come with a box of chicken patties. Mr Kanti Lal, from the ER, would make tea. He is a senior wound dresser, and a friend. This continued till one of us stopped drinking tea. Occasionally we would go out for lunch and once every winter Dr Roohina would make Gajar Ka Halwa for us.

    Dr Roohina and I shared many such memories. We used the same Blue Black ink for our patient notes and she was my wife, my mother-in-law and my primary consultant.

    The irony for some of us is that while treating our patients we ignore our own health and wellbeing. She had been taking pain killers for her backache till she was diagnosed with renal carcinoma.

    We were in regular contact even after she left for Islamabad for her nephrectomy, chemo and radiotherapy. She went down and down. Sometimes we talked on the phone and sometimes exchanged messages. Whenever Dr Shaheen and myself talked about her, we could only pray. Initially I used to pray for her life. Then I prayed for her suffering to end the best way possible which I think God heard. And now it is difficult to write more as there are tears in my eyes.