Large-hearted Mumbai embraces Pakistani teen with rare illness

When doctors in Karachi put their hands up, Nazia, mother of Saba Tarikh Ahmed, came to Mumbai with only Rs 80,000 to treat her 15-year-old daughter, who is suffering from a rare, genetic condition called Wilson’s Disease. In the City of Dreams, she met strangers who donated Rs 1.6 lakh for her fund. Doctors have also raised part of the money for a short-term treatment that will cost Rs 5 lakh

SunshineWe may not share the best of neighbourly love with Pakistan, but it’s totally a different story when a child across the border needs a strong helping hand.

Take the case of 15-year-old Saba Tarikh Ahmed, who is undergoing treatment in Jaslok Hospital, for a rare condition called Wilson’s Disease, in which copper accumulates in the body’s vital organs. It occurs in around 1 to 4 persons in a sample size of 100,000 people. Not only is a team of medical experts going out of its way to help her, total strangers are also chipping in to support the treatment, financially and emotionally.

fighting all odds: Saba Tarikh Ahmed with her mother Nazia at Jaslok Hospital, Peddar Road.  PIC courtesy/shailesh bhatia
Fighting all odds: Saba Tarikh Ahmed with her mother Nazia at Jaslok Hospital, Peddar Road. Pic courtesy/Shailesh Bhatia

Feeling at home
Saba’s mother Nazia is a single parent — her husband remarried and deserted her and their three children. Nazia said that the doctors in Karachi could not initially diagnose her daughter’s rare ailment.

“High doses of wrong medication have taken their toll on Saba, who has become frail and weak. Eventually when the right diagnosis was made, doctors back home advised that they were ill-equipped to handle the situation and India was the optimum choice, keeping in mind our financial constraints. What we are experiencing is total love and affection, (which) one would expect only from close family members,” said Nazia. She adds that India has been an incredible experience for her, and though it’s her first visit, people here have embraced her family like one of their own.

Saba Tarikh Ahmed recieved R1.5 lakh from strangers for her treatment  pic/shailesh bhatia
Saba Tarikh Ahmed recieved R1.5 lakh from strangers for her treatment  Pic/Shailesh Bhatia

Hope runs deep
Nazia makes it a point to pray at the nearby Haji Ali Dargah, seeking blessings for Saba’s recovery whenever she has a little time on her hands. She said that when she came to India, nearly three weeks back, she could only deposit

Rs 80,000. “With the hospital bill accumulating, total strangers such as Shabia Walia (a social worker), who came to know of our plight, came forward and gave us over R1.5 lakh. In a short span of time I now feel I have a new family in Hindustan, but now with my funds totally depleted, I am exploring the option of going back to Karachi, against medical advice. Kisi ka itna bhi ehsaan lena munasib nahi (it is not advisable to milk someone’s generosity).”

“I got a WhatsApp forward about her from a friend and on instinct decided to meet the family. On getting the stunning facts of the case we at the ‘Bluebells Community’, who basically work as messengers of help, have managed to pay off a major chunk of her bills by raising R1.6 lakh for her treatment through many benefactors, who came forward with small and big amounts. She also wanted some Urdu books, and we complied with her request,” said Walia.

Dr Pettarusp Wadia, a senior neurologist at Jaslok Hospital, who specialises in movement disorder, botulinum toxin therapy and deep-brain stimulation, said that Saba was reacting adversely to high dosage of medicines, which are required to flush out the copper from her body. If left unchecked, the condition could have long-lasting, serous and irreversible implications. The patient would also require regular physiotherapy treatment to regain her motor skills. “Keeping this in mind we have to limit the dose, but this would invariably result in a longer duration of stay in the hospital. The hospital has offered a lower-cost bed, which is normally not given to foreigners, but at the end of the day, the family will require additional financial and social support in Mumbai,” said Dr Wadia.

Dr Abbha Nagral, liver specialist and senior gastroenterologist at Jaslok Hospital, who is treating Saba, opined that the patient, whose liver and brain have been severely infected, was in no condition to travel back to Karachi. “Saba has a genetic disorder and the family has come to us with great faith. Keeping in mind the seriousness of the case, we have advised the mother to keep the patient — who has limited movement — in India for at least two months, as close day-to-day monitoring is required, in a scenario where the smallest of infections can blow up. We doctors have also raised some funds for her short-term treatment, which could cost nearly R5 lakh, which the family cannot afford,” she said.

  • Mohammed19-May-2015

    We Indian are big hearted, believes in humanity despite not happy with our neighbour. Proud to feel being an Indian.

  • Syed Taher20-May-2015

    Big salute to Doctors and those people who helped Saba Tariq, great example of humanity.Proud to be an INDIAN.

  • Faraz Rizvi20-May-2015

    Thank you India, humanity is the biggest relegion and I hope we can reciprocate act of kindness on regular basis from both countries. With love from Pakistan.

  • Adnan Siddiqui01-Sep-2015

    People on either side of the borders love each other, but we are helpless in front of the hawks on both sides. Let there be many more such examples from both countries. How can I contribute to Saba's treatment?

  • Saeed19-May-2015

    Salute... to the Doctors and people who have made humanity win over every difference.

  • Ishraq Shaikh07-Mar-2016

    Utmost respect for doctors, social workers and people who are helping her. This is how we can get Hearts' of people from both sides Close to each other. Please provide Nazia / Saba's contact info, I would love to help.

  • varghese21-May-2015

    forget politics, let us extend our hands to her, let her stand own her own.

  • Rajesh17-May-2015

    This is India meri jaan

  • sanjay17-May-2015

    Dear Admin ,Please let me know saba tariq ahmed "s contact number ,as i want to help her .

  • kranti17-May-2015

    The people of India have a BIG HEART when it comes to helping......unfortunately our neighbours forget that and continue with their mischievious activities....

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