Saudis and Americans Work Together in the Midst of Tragedy

Saudis and Americans Work to Support Student Family in the Midst of Tragedy


Too many times we read media articles or see where bloggers have written how uncaring the Saudi government is towards its own people. The true fact is that the Saudi government is much more caring and giving than the world is aware because generally the Saudi government and private citizens will simply give or do charitable acts quietly and without fanfare. That is simply the Saudi way. I have chosen to post in its entirety an article which illustrates how Saudis and Americans came together during a time of tragedy.  This tragic story shows how people forget about boundaries, political differences, nationality in order to reach out and do whatever can be done to help a family in need.  This story also shows not only that the Saudi government cares about its citizens whether they are within the Kingdom or abroad and how compassionate the Saudi government is for its people.

Saudis and Americans Work to Support Student Family in the Midst of Tragedy

APRIL 22, 2009[EDIT]

Saudis and Americans Work to Support Student Family in the Midst of Tragedy
By Patrick Ryan

Cookeville, Tennessee – When Ibrahim Alghamdi drove his wife Eman to the Cookeville Regional Medical Center Emergency Room last month it was with the expectation that the birth of their second child would be routine. It was not. Ibrahim, a Saudi engineering student at nearby Tennessee Technological University, learned his wife was suffering from Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome, or ARDS, which is frequently fatal.

Doctors at the Cookeville hospital delivered their son, Abdullah Ibrahim Alghamdi, on March 2, 2009 but Eman was soon placed on a ventilator and treated in the Intensive Care Unit for respiratory failure. Ibrahim remained at her side at the hospital while caring for the newborn and their sixteen-month-old daughter.

Eman’s condition deteriorated and by the middle of March the Cookeville hospital was asking the United States Embassy in Saudi Arabia to expedite visas for the young couple’s parents to travel to Tennessee as she was not expected to survive the illness. Meanwhile, the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington got involved in supporting the Alghamdi family and asked Tennessee Tech engineering student Saeed Al Rubaiee, Vice President of the Saudi Students Club to assist the family in Cookeville.

As Eman continued to battle the illness in the Cookeville hospital ICU arrangements were made for family members in Saudi Arabia to travel to the United States. According to Rubaiee many Saudi officials were deeply concerned about the situation and became directly involved in the case, “Ambassador Adel Al Jubeir called several times from Washington to make sure everything that could be done was being done and Ms. Kulud Al Khalaf of the embassy was calling day and night to check on the family and their situation.” He added, “Along with many others they showed heartfelt concern for the Alghamdi family.” Rubaiee said he was even called by the office of Saudi Crown Prince Sultan who is in New York City undergoing medical treatment. Unfortunately the health of Eman’s parents did not permit them to travel overseas so it was only Ibrahim’s parents who were able to travel to Tennessee to be with the family.

Rubaiee also praised the work of Cookeville hospital staff especially Dr. Douglas Kane who was attending to Eman. He also noted, “I remember standing with Ibrahim at night as he watched over his wife and the nurses there were so kind to him.” He appreciated the efforts of officials at Tennessee Tech, like Professor Peggy Kilgore, who offered support asking the people at her church in Cookeville to pray for Eman and the family, and assisted Eman in the hospital with personal needs.

After 43 days in the Cookeville hospital ICU, on April 15, 2009, Eman Alghamdi died from the consequences of the ARDS illness. “The five Saudi families, the other Saudi students at Tech and everyone who knew the family were deeply saddened by the loss,” said Rubaiee. “She had only been here for three months before going into the hospital but she was so friendly with everyone and everyone liked her and Ibrahim.”

The prompt return of Eman and the family to Saudi Arabia immediately ran into a snag. Commercial air transportation of her remains from Nashville to New York to connect with a flight to Saudi Arabia was not possible for at least four days after the surviving Alghamdi family members were prepared to travel. Rubaiee said Kulud Al Khalaf and Mohammed Alghamdi of the Saudi Embassy were extremely supportive in making all of the arrangements and he recalled the phone call from Ambassador Al Jubeir who told him that King Abdullah was sending an airplane to Nashville to transport Eman’s remains to New York for the flight home. “When the people here heard that King Abdullah sent a private jet many of them were very surprised. I cannot explain the happiness the family had at the news that the King wanted to help them.”

The loss of Eman Alghamdi was a tragedy for her family and her friends but, as Saeed Rubaiee pointed out, it was gratifying to see the support offered by Saudis and Americans – from King Abdullah, to the Saudi and American embassies, to the Cookeville hospital and Tennessee Tech University – in taking care of this young family in crisis.



12 Responses

  1. This is the genuine wonderful spirit of Southern Hospitality that personally has touched my family and me in Tennessee. I can feel it right now. So warmly soothing.

  2. I agree that the Saudi people are generous and empathetic. I also agree that Southerners are warm and hospitable.

    The Saudi government care for and protective of its people well-being?

    Facts, myths and fabrications tend to be contradictory. Read the article below to find out.

    Saudi cancer cases 4 times world rate: Contaminated imported goods to blame


    Published: Jan 12, 2011 00:40 Updated: Jan 12, 2011 00:40

    JEDDAH: The rate of cancer cases in Saudi Arabia is four times as much as international levels due to contaminated imported goods, according to the chairman of the Saudi Consumer Protection Society (SCPS) on Tuesday.

    “Cancer cases are on the rise and 35 percent of the population have liver diseases because companies and individuals importing foodstuffs do not reveal the possible harm their products may cause,” Dr. Nasser Al-Tuwaim said.

    He warned that some products imported from China could contain cancerous materials.

    “The Chinese commercial attaché told me that the Saudi traders ask only for cheap prices and are not concerned about the quality or safety of the goods they import from China,” he said.

    Al-Tuwaim said the society would launch a campaign against commercial fraud, including a boycott of goods that are fake or sold at exaggerated profits. “During the campaign, fraudulent companies and individual traders will be named and shamed,” he added.

    Al-Tuwaim also said the society would launch a special website for this purpose and will open the door for volunteers to work for it under its motto: “We are all eyes and watchmen.” He said through the website, the society would issue monthly statements about the results of its investigations and asked consumers to contact the society via its toll free hotline.

    “The society has started taking steps to uncover traders who fix prices and tamper with products by publishing information on our website,” he said.

    Al-Tuwaim accused some Saudi merchants of causing deaths and serious diseases by importing shoddy car parts or goods that do not fulfill health regulations.

    “We have information that such cheating has extended to include imports of Australian sheep and car spare parts, which are replaced by some dealers who fit counterfeit parts and sell the original ones,” he said. Al-Tuwaim said the society has established a data and studies center to document its findings and said they have teams cooperating with them to supply them with details of clandestine commercial transactions and prices.

    According to him, more than 3,000 people have died and more than 10,000 others injured after being sold fake tires and other counterfeit car parts.

    He said the society would conduct inspection visits and convey their findings to the government in order to apply sanctions against traders who cheat consumers.

    Al-Tuwaim said the center has started to collate the prices of Australian sheep and found out that they were sold in Saudi Arabia at very high prices.

    “The price per head of Australian sheep is between $40 to $50 in Malaysia and Indonesia and about $70 in some neighboring Arab Gulf countries, while it is $200 in the Kingdom,” he said.

    © 2010 Arab News

  3. This has to be a sad post for you to write. My best wishes to the family and friends of Eman. I think quite a few Americans would be surprised to learn anything about Saudi Arabia, and I don’t say this to be negative. As a country we seem to be mostly introspective. Stories like this one deserve to be shared. Thank you

  4. I should also say that in the case of my own husband when we knew his days were limited and his desire was to say final goodbyes to his mom and other family members and die at home. The Saudi government provided a medivac plane and made sure my husband got home. Two days after his arrival he passed.

    @Ali, it’s funny you cited that article because I have a future blog post (this week) with my own comments and analysis! Stay tuned.

  5. It is nice how everyone, including the government, came together to help these people. Having had Saudi family here in the same position and they did NOT get the same treatment, I can say it is a hit or miss situation.

    My mother in law knew Prince Bandr and his wife personally. Her husband worked with the Saudi government for 40 years, 20 years here in the USA. When she needed help when he died and afterward she got ill, she didnt get a single offer of help.

    They didnt offer her any help for her sickness when she was here, nothing, despite contacts to the Ambassador himself by my sister in law who is best friends with the wife if the Ambassador’s brother.

    Carol, you might not be aware of this, but the Alghamdi family is VERY well known in Saudi and has connections from top to bottom in the Saudi establishment as well as being very monied themselves.

    One wonders, as my story makes clear, they very well might not have gotten any help if their last name was different. If they were a regular, typical Saudi family without the well known last name and connections? I think the outcome would have been different.

    To me this is another story of wasta and connections benefitting the establishment and their supporters. No name? No wasta? NO help.

  6. It’s good to see that the Americans and Saudis are working together more for the benefit of their people on both sides. For so long, Americans here in KSA have felt otherwise. Knowing whom to call for help seems to be the key to success.

  7. One of my good Saudi friends’ uncle was visiting him in California. The uncle decided to buy a new car as a gift for my friend and his family. Right as my friend was driving away from the car dealer, he saw a car in his rearview mirror T-bone his uncle, who was driving the new car. No auto insurance, and no health insurance as he was only there as a visitor and not a student.

    The Saudi government paid for all three weeks of the uncle’s hospital stay in the U.S. and transported him back to Saudi, where he continues to receive care. My friend could have never afforded to pay for all this.

    My partner has remarked that although, as Ali noted, the Saudi government doesn’t really treat its people well within the kingdom… For some reason when its people are sick abroad, it’ll go to great lengths to ease their suffering.

  8. @Catherine,

    To a certain extent it is all about appearances. They help more for Saudis abroad to keep up appearances. But like I said before, this isnt always the case either.

    My mother in law, widow of a long standing Saudi diplomat got ZERO help when she was terminally ill. Wait, I forget, the did help to bury her. So no help to keep her alive, just to put her in the ground.

  9. Abo Sinan,
    From your hateful sentiment against Saudis, that I have for long felt it from associating with what so called northern Arabs in the United States, I can easily say that you are one of them and you are not a Saudi national.

    You, obviously, from what so called Northern Arabs, who could have sustained their livelihood and continued their education in the United States only by the help of the Saudi government.

    I always objected to this misappropriated generosity that is not even extended for most Saudis, which was given out of goodwill to better the lives of others regardless of any mundane considerations that people like you might come up with, but, unfortunately this unwise generosity fired back against all Saudis wherever they are, by doubting their good intentions.

    Doubting the Saudi intentions, or any people for this matter, is detested by many people because it holds beneath it undeniable hate. But, what is really hurt most Saudis is that when their goodwill is so obvious, and yet some people still think that Saudis can be taken advantage of without any guilt or shame, because they don’t know what to do with money, as if they are stupid.

    Saudis never cared about appearances, and once they do, they will do it with grace and style, unlike you and your kind, who claims to befriending, Prince Bander, the former Saudi Ambassador in the US, and his wife, but never had the integrity to refrain from backbiting them, at least for the sake of shared memories of old good times, that most honorable people hold.

    Most Northern Arabs, other Arabs, and Westerners, and even most Muslims around the world cannot and couldn’t comprehend why the Saudi government and Saudis give to almost every third world country without getting anything in return.

    It is understandable that generosity is not part of their personal make up nor in their culture, and in search of a reasonable answer, they say Saudis give so much to “appear good”. However, to be honest, the only generosity that I have seen and blessed with is the American generosity, and may be they understand where we come from, with respect to this quality.

    Treason in its minute (of friends and associates) or in its grand forms are only manifested by people, who we know very well, that our wives pull out their jewelry from their necks, arms, and fingers and throw them in the hat to support their cause, and not to mention our children who contribute their limited savings for that miserable cause, and yet, they bad mouth them and doubt their intentions as if it is tangible and they can feel it and read it, returning the favor.

  10. While it’s always laudable to read of the KSA government acting honourably in support of its citizens I can only wonder at what an expat Indian or Pakistani or Bangladeshi or Filipino family might have experienced in a similar situation.

    These acts of great generosity by the Saudi government are in stark relief to how most of the population there are treated.

  11. The question that most avoid to ask, how Saudis are treated in their own country by those formentioned expats?

    I am positive that they would not, and could not treat US citizens in their own country in the same manner.

    Starting with misusing the language and violating the law. It is, again, the Saudi government and people carelessnes to address these matters, so Saudis can assert themselves as the rightful citizens of this country that have become a fair-play.

  12. @abdullrahman
    dear friend, please try to avoid giving the American people false information to look like a perfect society, everything in Saudi is upside down, you know and i know that, so please save us the sympathy, that poor dude was talk about his mom illness and how you guys didnt help her and you mention him as a non citizen (northern Arabs) so are you a citizen ? are you sure you’re not from yaman, or Somalia, matter of fact why do you fly your 8 months pregnant wives to usa to get the citizen for your kids ?????,,, For ALL PEOPLE NON saudi heres a known fact -if youre born there they will not grant u a citizen or anything,,,,i hope usa can release a law and demand no dual citizen ship then well find out how loyal ur,,, and btw this dudes Family name got him the help if his family is unknown trust me he will be ignored from the embassy, thank god im kuwaiti………………..cookeville i love u guys real americans with lots of traditions…

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