According to family friend Christine Petricca Ross, Zohaib Malik-Mohammad was placed in an artificial coma on Thursday. Doctors hope the coma will give his body more time to heal after he stopped responding in the shallow waters of Snake Pond.
At the time of the accident, Zohaib was attending a birthday party for Ross’ daughter when he suddenly went missing, Ross said. Since many of the children at the party were playing all kinds of beach games, including Zohaib’s two brothers, his father Mubashir “Mobie” Mohammad noticed that Zohaib was not with the other children.
Mobie, who works at the Forestdale Shell gas station, began pacing the shoreline, telling several parents he couldn’t find Zohaib. Because of all the kids at the party, Mobie had previously put Zohaib in a white shirt so he could get him out of the crowd of revelers.
“He watched him very closely and lost sight of him for a second. I could feel his fear,” Ross said.
As soon as they heard that Zohaib could not be found, the parents at the party sprang into action: first clearing the pond, doing a count, and then searching the water for Zohaib.
Swimming accident happened at birthday party
“There were probably about 10 of us moms who all spread out — arm’s length apart and started combing the water,” she said. “Myself and another mother swam to the shackles in case he got that far.”
Because many of the parents were Coast Guard or health workers, Ross said they followed professional safety procedures to find the boy. After a few minutes of searching, a woman spotted the white shirt and pulled Zohaib out of the water at waist height. Although he had a heartbeat, he was not conscious.
“We were probably doing CPR for about 10 minutes before the EMTs took over,” Ross said. “The rescue efforts could not have gone better. It gave him the best possible chance of survival.”
Sandwich police declined to comment regarding the swimming accident.
Vigil kept, money raised for family
Ross also organized a wake that Wednesday in the outdoor classroom at Forestdale School† While Mobie and Zohaib’s mother, Abide Malik-Mohammad, has not left Zohaib’s side since the accident, his grandmother and two brothers attended the vigil and were joined by several hundred members of the community.
Throughout the evening, thoughts, prayers, songs and stories were shared for the family, Ross said. Since the Malik-Mohammad family is originally from Pakistan, leaders of the Pakistani community also came to pray.
“The vigil was very helpful. It was meant to show Zohaib’s family that they are surrounded by an entire community that just adores them,” Ross said. “It also gave us the chance to come together to pray and support each other.”
Chris Dintino, director of Forestdale School helped organize the vigil and said the gathering was a great show of support.
“Unfortunately, an incident like this was necessary to see how the community can come together and take this family under our wing,” he said. “I am so proud of our community.”
State Representative Steven Xiarhos also attended the vigil and chatted with Zohaib’s brothers and gave them quick rides on his Harley. Xiarhos said he has been in contact with the Malik-Mohammad family since Sunday to offer support. Xiarhos’ own son Nicholas Xiarhos was a Marine in Southern Afghanistan who died in combat in 2009.
“A tragedy can be so painful, but there is also beauty when a community comes together,” Xiarhos said. “I went through it when I lost my own son years ago. It was the community that came together and saved our family.”
Counseling offered for people in the event of an accident
In addition to showing support at the vigil, Dintino also set up counseling services on Monday to support the children and adults who were present during Sunday’s accident.
“I wanted to target those families that were there and the kids there who saw what happened,” he said. “For a 6- or 7-year-old child, as well as the adults present, this will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”
While most of the children were distracted by the beach games during the party, Ross said some children witnessed the incident.
“The group (kids) that were swimming probably saw the most and they struggled to process everything,” Ross said. “Mr. D opened the school so we could see the counselors and many of us took advantage of that. It was really fun.”
While there will be no services at the school all summer, Dintino said families can email him ([email protected]) if they need further advice.
For Ross, it’s time for the Sandwich community and beyond to give back to the Malik-Mohammad family in their time of need. She said Mobie has been particularly indispensable to community members during difficult times. As an employee at the gas station, she said he opened the store during storms and power outages to ensure people have access to basic necessities. He’s also been kind to those close to Ross who have had early-onset Alzheimer’s — even going as far as raising money for local
Alzheimer’s organizations at the gas station.
“We have to be there for them as they have been there for us,” she said. “It’s so important to stand up for this family.”
Xiarhos also encourages communities throughout Cape Cod to pray for the Malik-Mohammad family.
“Everyone is praying for a young boy most of us have never met. It’s very special. Very powerful,” he said. “I have a good feeling that this could be one of those miracles.”
Dintino agreed, saying that Zohaib and the entire Malik-Mohammad family need support to go the long way.
“He’s not from the woods,” he said. “But I pray and hope that in September I can roll out the red carpet for him and that he can walk through my building and go to kindergarten. I hope that can happen. And I’m going to make plans for it.”
This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Sandwich 5-year-old fights for his life after swimming accident