For many teenagers, prom is one of the biggest highlights of the time they spend at high school. Yes, from the preparation to the dance itself, the event remains mega-important to students across the world. And Olen Howden could certainly attest to that as he prepared for his prom in June 2019.
A resident of Lancaster, England, Howden attends Ripley St. Thomas C.E. Academy, with the dance scheduled for the summer. On that note, the teenager is looking to travel to his prom in style. And as he again catches a glimpse of a blue F-type Jaguar on his route to school, the thought how good that would be to ride in crosses his mind.
During that time, the eye-catching sports car has been outside the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, the area’s local hospital. The vehicle belongs to a physician named Dr. Marwan Bukhari, who specializes in rheumatology. And when he thinks about the car, Howden comes up with an interesting request for the doctor ahead of the school prom.
Boldly, Howden asks whether Bukhari can drive him to the dance in his Jaguar with a written message on the car’s windshield. He knows that it’s a shot in the dark, and that given how random his request is, he doesn’t expect to hear a response before the big event. However, the rheumatologist’s reaction to the note will leave him stunned.
In America, high-school proms have been a tradition for a number of decades, with senior students coming together to celebrate the end of their year. Since the 1920s, the event has seen through many changes, growing in stature as time has gone on. But the history of the dance goes back even further than that.
According to some, youngsters have been attending events like prom since the late 1800s. Those claims were backed up by a diary entry from 1894, as a college student in Amherst, Massachusetts, spoke about a dance at a nearby university. Now the celebration is often looked upon as one of the biggest events in a high-school year.
Meanwhile, countries outside of America continue to host prom-like parties for their students as well. In places such as New Zealand and Australia, the event is normally referred to as a “ball” or “school formal.” For teenagers living in Britain, though, the significance of the dance has only grown in recent years.
Before British schools adopted the prom format, they hosted an end-of-year party known as a “summer ball.” However, over the course of the noughties, the event began to change, coming to resemble the dances held in America. By 2012 a large number of students across the country could finally experience the prom first hand.
That year, U.K. newspaper The Daily Telegraph charted the rise of proms in British secondary schools, touching upon some incredible statistics along the way. “Ten years ago we did not have school proms to mark the milestones of GCSEs and A-levels,” the article from August 2012 read. “We had end-of-exam discos.”
“Now elaborate ‘passing out’ celebrations for Year 11 students (aged 15-16) and Year 13 (aged 17-18) have become a cultural phenomenon,” the piece continued. “Stoking passions and rivalries, and refashioning our sense of what a school party should be. More than 85 percent of schools in Britain hold school proms.”
At that point, the article then revealed a bit more about the parties. “[The proms] range from no-frills dinners in school halls,” it added, “to tailor-made extravaganzas in five-star hotels with such extras as ice-cream vans and photo booths.” On that note, a student from Lancaster had all of that to look forward to in June 2019.
Olen Howden was set to celebrate his school prom at that time, marking the end of the academic year. As a youngster, he grew up cared for by his parents Katerina and Simon, while he also had two sisters named Bela and Amalka. Tragically, though, that family unit was broken apart in 2008.
Indeed, Howden’s family was involved in a major car crash that year, with his father passing away on the day of the incident. After that, his younger sister Amalka eventually died from her injuries, before Katerina slipped away just a few days later at the local hospital. But the hardships didn’t end there.
Howden, who was just four years old at the time of the crash, suffered a broken foot and a damaged collarbone. While his relatives looked after him once he was released from the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, his older sister Bela had problems of her own. Due to the severity of her injuries, she’d been kept in the facility’s intensive care unit.
Thankfully for Bela, she was eventually moved out of the unit as she got better, returning home to her brother. Following the accident, the siblings were looked after by their Czech grandma: Svatava Hrazdilova. In addition to that, the family received some much-needed help from a charity called the Architects Benevolent Society as well.
A few years on from that tragic crash, Howden’s sister then sent the charity a letter, hailing what it did for them. “My name is Bela Howden,” she wrote. “I am 13 years old, 14 in January. I am writing to the Architects Benevolent Society to say thank you for helping to look after us since my parents died.”
From there, Bela revealed that her dad had plied his trade as an architect before his tragic demise, which had led the charity to assist them. “I live with my younger brother, Olen, and granny, Babi,” the post continued. “We have lived together since 2008, when me and my family were involved in a car accident.”
At that point, Howden’s older sibling spoke about the work that the organization did following the crash. “After we had come home from the hospital, our house was still a mess, because we had only just moved in,” Bela wrote. “The Architects Benevolent Society helped Babi fix up our house (she didn’t really understand English).”
Bela added, “They helped us buy carpets, windows and decorate our house. They even helped replace a washing machine! We lived there for six years, and we planted three trees in our garden in memory of our parents and Amalka. And to remember how much the Architects Benevolent Society have helped us since 2008.”
Remembering that period, Bela then concluded her heartfelt letter with one final update on her family. Alongside that, she also revealed that the charity kept in touch. “Now, we live together in a new house,” the Lancaster resident wrote. “We still have furniture and pictures from when our parents were around, so we can still have them with us.”
“Now I can fit into my mom’s jeans, and love her high heels!” Bela finished. “The Architects Benevolent Society sends us a card each Christmas asking us how we are. We thank the Architects Benevolent Society immensely, and hope they can carry on helping other families in the same way they have helped us.”
With that in mind, the build-up to Howden’s prom was no doubt bittersweet, as his parents and younger sister couldn’t be there to see it. However, the teenager still looked to make the most of the big event, which led to a significant moment. Before the dance, he had kept on seeing a blue sports car outside the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
The vehicle was an F-type Jaguar that belonged to Dr. Marwan Bukhari. The physician, who specializes in rheumatology, works at a number of different facilities under the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. The Royal Lancaster Infirmary is part of that. But Bukhari’s work doesn’t end there.
“Dr. Bukhari trained in rheumatology and epidemiology in Manchester,” reads a bio post on the trust’s official website. “His research interests include inflammatory arthritis, quality of life in patients with arthritis and the epidemiology of osteoporosis. Dr. Bukhari is [also the] educational lead for medicine for students at Lancaster University.”
That wasn’t all, though. “[Dr. Bukhari is the] associate director for medical education at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary [as well],” the post adds. “He is also the co-editor of the journal Rheumatology. He is the northern regional advisor for [the] National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society.” Away from his work, the doctor received a surprise in the summer of 2019.
Indeed, Bukhari found a written message on the windshield of his vehicle from Howden at that time. While the pair didn’t know each other, the student questioned if he could get a ride to his prom in the sports car. However, not even he could’ve predicted what happened next, as the rheumatologist responded.
In a surprising twist, Bukhari agreed to Howden’s request ahead of the dance. As a result of that, the former arrived at his house to pick him up when the time eventually came. Before they left in the Jaguar, Bela and her grandma saw them off, struggling to contain their happiness.
Following the prom at Ripley St. Thomas C.E. Academy, Howden and Bukhari reflected on everything that had happened before it. According to the student, the mere sight of the sports car got the wheels turning in his brain. “I thought it would be a great prom car,” he told the Lancaster Guardian newspaper in July 2019. “It was amazing.”
As for Bukhari, he had no problem in helping Howden out on his big night. “Olen is a very enterprising young man,” the physician told the newspaper. “He left a note for me behind the screen wash in a plastic bag. I was very happy to drive him to his prom.”
Responding to that heartwarming move, Howden and his family looked to pay Bukhari back with a gesture of their own. Noting his area of expertise, they donated some money toward an arthritis charity. Meanwhile, in an intriguing twist, the prom was scheduled during Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week.
After the story was published, the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust shared it on Facebook, drawing a big response. Indeed, the post earned in excess of 4,500 likes and more than 600 shares on the social media website. In addition to that, it also generated close to 500 comments from online users.
“That’s an amazing story,” wrote one social media user in the comments section. “[I] hope you enjoyed your prom. Dr. Bukhari is my rheumatologist and he is a lovely gentleman too. Well done all round, fab to hear a positive story.” The supportive messages didn’t end there, as more people shared their thoughts.
Much like the previous user, another regular visitor to Bukhari’s office gave their reaction to the story. “Always knew this man was special!” they wrote. “I am one of his patients and have been since he came to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary. What a special memory for Olen and his family.”
A fellow online user, who had known Bukhari before his move to the hospital, echoed those thoughts. According to them, the physician had had a pleasant demeanor back then as well, so this story didn’t come as much of a surprise. However, that didn’t lessen the impact of his kind gesture.
“I remember [Bukhari] training as a junior doctor at Leigh Infirmary years ago,” the Facebook user wrote in the comments section. “Doesn’t surprise me that he has done a lovely thing. He was lovely back then, and [it’s] so nice to see he still has a lovely, generous nature [now].”
As the kind messages continued to pour in for Bukhari, one other comment really stood out from the rest. The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, known as the NRAS, responded to the story too through its official Facebook account. Unlike some of the other users, the organization touched upon what Howden’s family did after the prom.
“Such a sweet gesture on both sides!” read the NRAS comment. “Thank you Marwan for raising awareness of rheumatoid arthritis; we’re proud to have you as our medical advisor!” From there, the charity switched its focus to Howden and the donation that was made following his trip in the sports car.
The NRAS added to its comment, “Big thanks to Olen’s family for the generous donation to NRAS. [That money] will go toward helping adults with rheumatoid arthritis, and children and teenagers with juvenile idiopathic arthritis.” Meanwhile, Howden opened up a bit more during his interview with the Lancaster Guardian.
Although Howden took a lot of joy from his flashy trip to the prom, the actions of his family after that were just as important. Indeed, the teenager was pleased to pay something back to his local area. Along with that, he also revealed an ambition that he wanted to fulfill in the future.
After getting a taste of the Jaguar, Howden hoped to purchase one for himself when he got older. But as for now, though, the student had a message for his prom chauffeur. “I would like to thank Dr. Bukhari for driving me to the prom and making me feel like I was on a race track!” he added to the newspaper.