A Long Island college student says her life may never be the same after someone threw acid in her face in the middle of the night, while she was in her own driveway.
Police are still searching for the person responsible for the cruel attack that was captured on a neighbor's surveillance video on March 17. Nafiah Ikram can be seen walking across the front lawn of her Elmont home when the attacker rushes at her from behind and douses her with a cup of acid before sprinting off.
"At the time, I didn't know it was acid. I started walking because I thought it was just a prank — the substance felt warm, room temperature, like juice thrown on me," she told NBC New York, saying she also thought she was going to get kidnapped or attacked. "A couple of seconds later it started to burn, I started to panic and ran into the house."
The Hofstra University student's parents doused her with water to ease the burning, and called 911. Ikram said her tongue got so swollen, she couldn't breathe.
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"Thank God my parents were home. God forbid — the fact that I didn't know what the substance was, I probably would have died," she said.
Ikram spent two weeks in the hospital, suffering severe burns to her face, eyes, chest and arms. She has had to take the rest of the semester off from school to recover. Despite her severe injuries still healing, she wanted to go on camera to tell her story.
"There are no words to describe what I went through," she told News 4. "Right now, I don't know if I'll ever drive again because of how bad the vision is in my eye."
In addition to the physical pains, Ikram is dealing with the emotional scars of anxiety and post-traumatic stress as well.
"It's devastating, she's going to have to live with this for the rest of her life," her mother said.
The community has rallied around the college student. Friends, family and strangers have helped raise $300,000 for hospital costs.
Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi shared Fatima's story with her one million Instagram followers, and shared the GoFundMe that has been set up to help with the expenses.
Lakshmi said that she has known the family for a decade, and that a month after the attack, said Ikram is still unable to eat solid foods after screaming during the attack, and unintentionally ingesting some of the acid. She also said that her vision is in question because the contacts she was wearing at the time of the attack melted into her eyes, due to the acid.
For now, Ikram knows she has a long road ahead, telling everyone to "just keep me in their prayers."
In addition to healing prayers, her family is now seeking justice.
"If anyone has any clue, any tip to find the person who did this to my daughter — we're begging, please come forward," her mother said.
The Nassau County Police Department said Wednesday that they were upping the reward to $20,000 for information on the case, saying "we will put all the resources behind to make sure we go out and catch the individual." Police said they believe the attacker got away in a red Nissan Altima with fog lights that was spotted on several surveillance cameras in the area, and don't believe they were acting alone.
U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice called on the New York State Hate Crimes Task Force to help Nassau County in its investigation, but police are not yet ready at this time to say the attack was fueled by hate.