Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mystery illness claims Sudanese mother

Tassabeh Yagoub, 7, holds a photo of her mother, Khadiga Ibrahim, 36, a refugee from Sudan who died Friday at Community Hospital in New Port Richey.


Tassabeh Yagoub, 7, holds a photo of her mother, Khadiga Ibrahim, 36, a refugee from Sudan who died Friday at Community Hospital in New Port Richey.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Only days ago, as her body grew weaker, Khadiga Ibrahim spoke of Sudan again.

She spoke of the home she left behind, of her belief that someone there might know how to cure her mysterious disease.

But the $1,500 a nephew raised to fulfill her wish won't pay for a return flight. Instead, it will go toward burying her body here.

Khadiga, 36, died Friday (Feb. 6, 2009) at Community Hospital, her family said. The cause of death remains unknown.

"It's like she say, 'My body can't be alive any more,' " said her husband, Ibrahim Yagoub. (Khadiga used her husband's first name as her surname.)

It was the latest blow — by far the harshest one — to Yagoub and their five children, ages 7 to 18, whom the St. Petersburg Times profiled in late December.

The family of Sudanese refugees, who were brought to Pasco County by a relief agency, found themselves caught up in the same financial crisis as so many other Americans.

Yagoub, who became a U.S. citizen in 2007, got laid off last year from his job with a sprinkler company. He could no longer afford the two mortgages on the Hillandale Estates home, and last year the lender foreclosed.

Other Sudanese refugees pitched in to help pay the deposit and first month's rent at a New Port Richey apartment complex while Yagoub searched for a job.

But in the meantime, Khadiga had fallen ill with a disease that left her body swollen and painful, her legs at times useless. She couldn't eat. She became withdrawn, listless at times from the pain medications.

The worst part? No one could say what was wrong with her.

"It was one of the most frustrating things in my life," said Dr. Glenn Kwiat, who treated Khadiga at Community Hospital.

Community and Tampa General Hospital, where she stayed for nearly a month, ran tons of tests. Nothing. Kwiat said doctors even tested for diseases not typically seen in the United States, such as malaria. Still nothing.

Some doctors had suggested some of her problems might be psychosomatic. But Kwiat said that didn't explain why one of her arms once swelled to three times its normal size.

Khadiga was buried the day after her death in a place called Sunset Memory Gardens, in Hillsborough County. Muslim tradition calls for a quick burial, her husband said.

An autopsy might have helped answer questions about her death, but because the Medical Examiner's Office did not order one, the family would have had to foot the bill. Besides not having the money for that, Khadiga's father back in Sudan asked Yagoub not to allow it.

"She is finished in this world," said Yagoub. "We can't do nothing more."

Just a week ago, Yagoub found a $7-an-hour job as a maintenance worker at Innisbrook. When someone called him Friday with the news, his supervisor drove him to the hospital.

Kwiat, the doctor, drove over to Gulf High School to tell the two oldest girls, Awatif, 18, and Shadia, 16.

"I couldn't move," Awatif said Monday. "My heart was beating, beating. In my heart, I knew it was my mom."

Shadia lowered her face, and the tears slipped off her cheeks.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at or (727) 869-6247.

Mystery illness claims Sudanese mother 02/09/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 1:51am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. FEAM to open disaster recovery center in Riverview


    The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will open a disaster recovery center Thursday in Riverview for Hillsborough County residents impacted by Hurricane Irma.

  2. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander


    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.

  3. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.


    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) takes the field to start the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  4. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest


    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]
  5. Mueller casts broad net in requesting extensive records from Trump White House


    WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating Russian election meddling has requested extensive records and email correspondence from the White House, covering the president's private discussions about firing his FBI director and his response to news that the then-national security adviser was under …

    In a photograph provided by the Russian foreign ministry, President Donald Trump meets with Sergei Lavrov, left, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017. Special counsel Robert Mueller is interested in this meeting, where Trump said dismissing FBI Director James Comey had relieved "great pressure" on him, the New York Times reported on Sept. 20. [Russian Foreign Ministry via  New York Times]