Since I moved to Cairo in 2004 I have met many interesting people, with equally interesting characters. Some of those people I may have met once or twice, while others were part of a very special group of people I am forever grateful for being introduced to. Without them, I highly doubt that I would have endured or enjoyed Cairo as much as I have. Timothy J. Quinn III was one of those people. Not only was he one of the most adored and friendly members of the group, but he became like an adopted brother to some of us and you could talk to him with the greatest of ease.
I remember the first time, I met T.J at one of our ‘Tuesday Nighter’ outings, he very politely extended his hand to me and said, ‘I don’t believe we have met before, my name is T.J, forsa sa3eeda giddan (translates to, the pleasure is mine)’. I was shocked at how well he spoke Arabic. A conversation from that point on ensued and we talked like we had known each other for years. I learned that he was of mixed heritage too, (Irish/Italian) but was a Boston boy!
(Go Fighting Irish)
Every time I saw T.J from that time onwards he would always greet me with a genuine warm smile and hug no matter how much time had passed since we had last seen one another. When we would get chance to talk he would always ask how I was and what I had been up to and be sincere in his wanting to know.
I may not have known him as well as some of the other people in our group, but T.J had a way of making a lasting impression and being in everyone’s good books. In all the time I’ve known him, I can’t recall him ever saying anything negative about anyone or anything. If anything it was his graciousness and positive upbeat attitude that is still fresh in my mind.
T.J like another dearly departed friend of ours, Nathalie Atalla had the ability to bring out the best in those around them and could effortlessly bring people together. T.J knew EVERYONE! Whenever we went any where, it didn’t matter what part of Cairo or the country it was, T.J always had a ‘buddy’ there. Come to think of it, I am sure that he has a buddy in every corner of the globe. There is a theory that between you and a stranger there are six degrees of separation. That may be true for most of the world’s population, but not for T.J.
T.J loved to laugh and enjoy himself with those he knew, (he had a great laugh, and when he did his face would turn crimson red). If he was at a party and there were people who didn’t know him when they arrived, they most definitely would have by the time they left and it’s highly possible they exchanged numbers or became facebook friends not long afterwards.
T.J although a Boston boy, loved Egypt more than most Egyptians I know. He had traveled around the city and the country to places I had never heard of and wouldn’t know how to get to even if I wanted to, but he could and if he was free, he would gladly take you there himself. He knew where to buy most things at great prices, he wasn’t afraid to ride public transportation where he would interact and talk to the people he sat next to. He would come back and tell us stories of his adventures and have us gasping for breath as our sides hurt from laughing and tears streamed down our face, with his witty remarks and unforgettable sarcasm.
We would often tease him and say that with his knowledge of the country and his spoken Arabic, he had to be working for the CIA and was gathering intelligence, because lets face it, even though he had a great bald head, he was no Bruce Willis.
In the autumn of 2012, to the best of my knowledge, T.J went home to Boston for a visit. I had no idea he had been away until the 2nd of January when he emailed us with some shocking news.
He sent and e-mail titled; ‘Happy New Year and a stroke of good luck.’
a happy and healthy 2013 to all.
Just a quick update: I had a stroke. at the ripe old age of 32.
expecting a full comeback in the coming months. for now, it sucks. I speak spottily/sloppily with some slurring and my left side is much slower and weaker than my right side. I was hospitalized over the weekend and am now home in allston (boston), where I have been for the past few months, albeit now under new circumstances.
i was given initial physical therapy at the hospital and will get regular outpatient treatment over the coming weeks. Family has been looking after all of us here. I am in good hands.”
(ever the comedian and optimist)
As you can imagine we flooded him with well wishes and encouragement, reading back on my reply to his, my words ring true now more than ever.
I now know why you had been on my mind recently. I’m sorry that you
had to experience a stroke at such a young age. I too am going through
some odd medical things that most people don’t get until they are much older,
so I can relate to what you are experiencing on a minor level.
I am glad you were home when it happened so that you had/have the
support that you need and the medical attention too. Take good care of
yourself T.J and never give up. You will make it through this and just
remember to thank God daily for your blessings!
Take care friend”
We got a total of 3 up dates from TJ and they were full of optimism.
February 14th, update number 2
Thank you so much for all your support and help. I just got back from the ‘bubble test’, which seems to have gone well. My parent’s said my doctor sounded excited by the results. That’s the good news. The test was not fun.
(following is largely minutiae) It was similar to an angioplasty (anyone?) but instead of cleaning up gunk from your arteries (or heart) with a small bubble, it sent to one of the arteries in the brain and stopped blood flow just below the aneurysm to see how I reacted. I was awake during the whole process. It was literally a pain in the neck. I spent yesterday night at the hospital under observation and left today. My left hip is very sore (as that served as the entry point) today, though that is thankfully getting better.The therapist gave me a cane in case I needed it, though it is better to use as a prop than using it to hit him.
I’ll be in contact soon when I get the doctor’s to get the next course of action.
In the meantime, thank you again so much for your help and supporting emails!
All the Best,
March 26th, update number 3
” Dear all!
Thank you again for all the signs of support! It’s really helping!
Just saw the neurologist and the neurosurgeon and wanted to share the news:
The bubble test last month bore positive news and I am having surgery in late May. The surgery basically involves clamping the artery ‘feeding’ the aneurysm, thereby reducing pressure and slowing potential growth. There are secondary arteries that can sufficiently “power” the area. Apparently, there is a fair amount of risk involved, but doing nothing is even more risky. They also mentioned waking me up during the surgery to make sure everything is working properly. I hope this kind of “wake up” surgery is not a growth industry.
There was also a stroke check up. The stroke, as far as strokes go, was a huge one, which is surprising because I am basically back to functioning ‘normally’ – to the point where I could agitate the aneurysm, and handle a Quinn Family gathering. Even my speech is almost totally clear (so long as I keep away from those pesky tongue twisters …and copious amounts of beer). However, running a 5k for St Patrick’s Day did not happen as hoped – I can ‘run’ about a 100 yards/meters, at which point my left leg starts dragging. Instead, I’m going out for extended walks, weather permitting.
This was definitely not what I foresaw returning to Boston from Cairo, but makes for a great ‘overcoming challenges’ story whenever work interviews begin.
Thank you again so much for all the notes, words, and help over the past few tricky months!
My contact with him continued, I had just finished sending him two drafts of my latest blog posts and wanted him to read about the latest drama I had experienced. His last email to me was on April 21st not knowing it could very well be my last. The following day his group of friends were forwarded an email from his sister Nina.
” Hi everyone.
I apologize for the mass email. I wanted to let everyone know that TJ is currently undergoing surgery at MGH.
His aneurysm ruptured this morning – less than a month before his surgery (which was scheduled for May 20) to clamp it. He was home and my parents called 911 and he went to MGH in an ambulance.
I got the call that he’d been taken to the hospital around 215 and went to meet my family in the ER. We were able to see him a few times before he went into surgery. He was in a medically induced coma with the ventilators and all sorts of wires leading to all sorts of beeping. I was definitely a freaky for me to see my big brother (who I was literally laughing with yesterday) look like that.
We spoke as a family to an ER nurse, a nurse liaison, the head of neurosurgery at MGH and one of his people, and a few nurses on the ICU floor where TJ will be staying. I cannot say enough about the MGH team. To say he’s in good hands is an understatement.
My parents are going back around 930/10 this evening and will speak to Dr. Ogilvy (head of neurosurgery at MGH and arguably the best in the world) to see how the surgery went. I’m waiting to hear from them with any updates, though there might not be any this evening. Though Dr. Ogilvy was positive, this is a really tough case (TJ Quinn: making things difficult since 1980) and it’s too early for a prognosis of any kind yet. I also don’t believe visitors outside immediate family are allowed at this point, but I’ll let you know otherwise as news comes in.
Again, I’m sorry for the mass email, but wanted to keep you all informed as possible. I’ll share any updates as they come. Feel free to forward to friends and folks I may have forgotten.
Thank you all for your love and concern over these past few months. You have been a HUGE support for me and my family. I’ll be in touch as I have more to share. ”
The news of the possibility of losing T.J came as a big blow and although we were optimistic, the news that followed on April 29th was heart wrenching and shattering.
” Dearest Family and Extended Family,
I write today with sad news. TJ is not going to wake up. We knew his situation was serious and, though the surgery was technically successful, we found out on Friday that he was not responding positively, and will not recover from the ruptured aneurysm.
This weekend has been spent saying our good-byes. Your prayers and thoughts over the past week have kept us all strong – I have been reading all your messages to TJ. Tomorrow (Monday) we will remove the ventilator and let nature take its course. It should not take long even though TJ is strong.
Though completely devastating, I write with the knowledge that he received the best care possible. The doctors and nurses and staff at MGH are truly special.
I can’t thank you all enough for your kind words, texts, emails, and prayers. Each one was felt. I will share details about services over the next few days.
Peter and I know that we shared TJ as a brother with many of you and as a friend with all of you. We are honored that he touched so many hearts – one of his many gifts. I know he will be missed.
All my love,”
Although the chances of T.J defying medicine were slim, we his friends for the most part chose to hold on to that last shred of hope, that he would choose life and that God all mighty would grant us a miracle. He had already claimed a dear friend of ours a couple of years earlier. Did he have to take T.J too?
I am grateful that I got to meet and know T.J. He was an exemplary individual who was liked and adored by many. He siezed moments and enjoyed each day.
I am also grateful that he was back in Boston when all of this happened, so he could be home with his immediate family.
Most importantly, I am grateful that he did recover from his stroke, so that he had the time he needed to spend with them over the past few months and we, his friends could let him know how much we truly cared for him as we encouraged him to keepy defying fate. Maybe the miracle we had hoped for last night didn’t come true, but the fact that he fought his way back the first time was a miracle in itself.
T.J even during this very difficult and delicate time as we say our goodbyes in our own way and make peace with the fact that we will not be seeing you, you have succeed in bringing people closer together. The outpouring prayers, well wishes and condolences that were sent by people you knew and those who were touched by your story was overwhelming and heart warming.
As a friend of yours on twitter posted this mornind ” @rbecker51 @tjquinn3 is #BostonStrong”
(Irish Blessing) I raise a glass to you today and say;
If tears could build a stairway, and memories were a lane,
We would walk right up to heaven, And bring you back again.
No farewell words were spoken, No time to say goodbye,
You were gone before we knew it, And only God knows why.
Our hearts still ache in sadness, and secret tears still flow,
What it meant to lose you, No one will ever know,
But now we know you want us To mourn for you no more,
To remember all the happy times, Life still has much in store.
Since you’ll never be forgotten, We pledge to you today,
A cherished place within our hearts, Is where you’ll always stay.
We will miss you T.J, come visit us in our dreams from time to time.
April 30th 2013