‘Leave a legacy whose impact survives you’: journalist and two-time organ transplant recipient Fatima Baig dies at 28

There is a basket full of clothes still waiting to be washed in Fatima Baig’s room.

Her mother, Afia Baig, also sees a garbage can that she needs to empty, covered with some Smarties and candy wrappers left over from Halloween.

Despite living with a chronic autoimmune disease and having received an organ transplant twice, no one in his family suspected anything was happening. She was seriously wrong when Fatima Baig went to the hospital with stomach problems last Friday; he also had Crohn’s disease.

But on Sunday afternoon, 28 years old Baig passed away after complications from a colonoscopy.

Afia spoke to Star on the phone, remembering her daughter while sitting in Baig’s room.

“It comforts me,” she said, as one of the family’s two cats snuggled into the pet bed at the foot of her daughter’s bed.

“Living with Fatima always made me a strong person, because I had to always be there for her,” said Afia, recalling that Baig struggled with health problems from the age of two. “She was such a strong fighter from the beginning.”

Born in Saudi Arabia to Pakistani parents, Baig and her family immigrated to Canada in 1996 and lived in Mississauga, Ontario.

Baig, the youngest of four children, lived with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a rare autoimmune disease that attacks the bile ducts and eventually leads to liver failure. It is even rarer for a child to be diagnosed, as it usually affects adults between the ages of 30 and 40.

Fatima Baig lived with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a rare autoimmune disease that attacks the bile ducts and eventually leads to liver failure.

She had her first transplant in 2004 at age 11, a living donation from her mother, but six years later, Baig had liver failure again and had to join the transplant list.

It took three years and eight months before Baig got a match From someone who had recently passed away, he had type B blood and was roughly his size: he was about four feet seven with a slight build.

The long wait made Baig an advocate for organ donation. Less than a quarter of Canadians registered organ donors and as of 2019, more than 4,300 are awaiting life-saving transplants.

Baig raised awareness in Muslim and South Asian communities, made connections with other families affected by liver disease, and spoke at events, sometimes at the invitation of politicians.

Baig became an author and wrote about her life in a memoir called “The journey of Fatima” which was published in 2017 and then pursued a career in journalism, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in June 2020.

“He spoke with such confidence,” Afia said, remembering how a leader her daughter was.

Every year, Baig celebrated his two transplant anniversaries, October 19 and September 23, along with his birthday, August 27.

And the people who surrounded her health journey were important to her.

He was in regular contact with Cindy Barkley, the mother of his second donor.

“I am thankful to have known her and seen her live healthy for the past seven years… I still find it crazy that she is gone,” Barkley said.

Donations are often anonymous, but a few weeks after Barkley’s son, Holden Passmore, died at age 20, he spotted Baig on the news.

“I saw (Baig’s story) on the news and I felt this wave over me and I knew in my heart that it was Holden’s liver,” Barkley told the Star when they first met in person in 2015.

Barkley and her husband Kenneth gifted Baig with a Snoopy and Charlie Brown pillow that his mother said is still sitting on his bed.

They had kept in touch via text messages and social media ever since. Whenever Barkley had a bad day, he would get a ping and see a message from Baig, signing in.

In a 2017 video for Project Organ Baig said receiving a transplant twice was a big part of her life, but not the only one.

“I am still a student, I am a daughter, I am a sister.”

At the time of his death, Baig had added a journalist to that list. He graduated in June 2020 with a BA from Humber College’s journalism program.

She and her best friend from school, Clement Goh, always sat together in the front row of class.

Regardless of the weather, Baig was the first to arrive, alert and engaged with a smile on her face and ready to ask probing questions with the kindest delivery.

Everyone who was asked to describe Baig says the same thing: He had a bright smile, a cheerful personality, and always put others first.

Goh recalls how Baig contacted him to make sure he took breaks from studying and worrying about classwork to take care of his mental health, and that support continued when the couple landed internships at Global News.

If he wanted to make her laugh in return, Goh knew he should send a cat GIF to the group chat where they and their partner Rachel Wong caught up every day.

“She had a way of caring for others, more than she cared for herself, most of the time,” Goh recalls.

That guiding focus lent itself to his journalistic interests. Throughout the school she told stories about food affordability, accessible transit, Islamophobia, a family of refugees from Syria resettling in Canada.

She volunteered to write blog posts for SMILE, a charity for children with disabilities.

“That was a cause that was very close to his heart. And that really was reflected in the work he did, ”said his former teacher Shenaz Kermalli. “I clearly remember her as someone who really wanted to amplify the voices of … underserved communities, and especially her own community.”

Just a month ago, Baig started working with Muslim sources, a new database to help journalists find Muslim experts to help diversify the people quoted in the news.

Determined and tenacious, her teachers were confident that she would go far in the field and be a necessary voice in the industry.

Fatima Baig, a journalist and two-time organ transplant recipient, dies at the age of 28.

As word of his demise spread, social media posts He filled people’s feeds with memories of his peers and elders alike.

Upon FacebookA community member, Taha Ghayyur, reflected on the lessons he learned from her while advocating for organ donation: “You may face adversity, but you can choose to respond with a positive attitude; You can live a short life, but you can choose to leave a legacy whose impact will outlive you. ”

“There was something about her,” Afia muses, thinking of the outpouring of love.

Baig was celebrated by loved ones at a funeral Wednesday in Oakville, Ontario.

He is survived by his mother Afia, his father Mizra F. Baig, two older sisters, and an older brother.


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