Omayma Ahmad, 40, Arabic and English teacher


Omayma Ahmad, an English and Arabic teacher who while pregnant almost three years ago survived a rare heart surgery and went on to deliver a healthy baby boy, died of heart failure Aug. 6 at Good Samaritan Hospital. The Baltimore resident was 40.

Born with a serious heart defect in Khartoum, Sudan, Ms. Ahmad underwent three open-heart surgeries. When she faced an aortic valve replacement - an operation in which her heart would be stopped and a machine would circulate her blood - in 2003 when she was pregnant, her Johns Hopkins Hospital doctors urged her to terminate her pregnancy. The operation was risky and especially threatened her unborn child. Ms. Ahmad rejected their advice.

"They said, `The chances that the baby will survive are less than 40 percent,'" Ms. Ahmad recalled in an interview with The Sun in May 2004. "I said, `I'm not going to abort it. Let us take our chances. If it is going to survive, OK.'"

She survived the surgery and six months later gave birth to Mahmood Mohamed, now 2 1/2 .

In Baltimore, her husband, Mubarak Mohamed, who has a business degree from the University of Baghdad in Iraq, took a job as a security guard so Ms. Ahmad could return to her studies. She received a master's degree in teaching English as a second language from the College of Notre Dame in May. The family was planning to move to Monterey, Calif., where Ms. Ahmad was close to landing a job teaching Arabic.

"She was very happy and looking to the future with bright eyes," her husband said. "She was looking very beautiful, in good health."

Just before she left Sudan to study English at Mosul University in Iraq in 1985, Ms. Ahmad met her future husband in Khartoum. She and Mr. Mohamed married in 1996. They soon moved to New Delhi, India, where she pursued her first master's degree, in English literature. She also spoke French fluently.

"Everything about her was very complete," Mr. Mohamed said. "She was very young, 19, but seemed 40, the way she was talking. She loved her education, was always looking to her future."

While in India, she taught Arabic to the children of diplomats, and in Sudan she taught English.

In 2001, Ms. Ahmad and her family were granted refugee status and relocated to the United States, flying to San Francisco the day of the Sept. 11 attacks. Once in San Francisco, Ms. Ahmad underwent an emergency aortic valve repair. One month later, with the assistance of the International Rescue Committee, they moved to Baltimore.

A devoted teacher, Ms. Ahmad taught her 5-year-old twin sons, Mohamed Mohamed and Ahmed Mohamed, to read in both English and Arabic before they entered kindergarten.

"She was a very independent woman for somebody who lived in a country where women don't tend to be very independent," said Jeanne Ruddock of Baldwin, a close friend who met Ms. Ahmad through local refugee service providers. "Yet she put her family first. She really wanted to make a difference for this country."

She spent hours surfing education, linguistics and English Web sites on the Internet. She prepared Sudanese cuisine, most notably kissra, a staple corn bread eaten with stews.

Funeral services were Aug. 7.

In addition to her husband and sons, survivors include her mother and father, Maryem Hassan and Obied Suliman, both of Khartoum; four sisters, Nagwa Ahmad, Amani Ahmad, Manal Ahmad and Hiba Ahmad, all of Khartoum; and a brother, Ahmed Obied of the United Arab Emirates.

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