The determination of a bariatric surgeon, an Egyptian heavyweight’s hope for a shot at life and mid-day’s exclusive and relentless coverage of their journey means Eman Ahmed Abdulati leaves her home for the first time in 25 years to fly into Mumbai for a life-saving surgery
A specially equipped EgyptAir freighter flying her in from Cairo
Welcome, Eman. We’ve waited too long for you. Egyptian national Eman Ahmed Abdulati, touted the world’s heaviest woman at 500 kg, arrived in Mumbai with sister Shaimaa Ahmed on an EgyptAir freighter at 4.10 am today for a life-saving bariatric surgery and subsequent treatment.
Eman was expected to arrive in Mumbai early this morning
Her arrival comes over two months after mid-day broke her story - she hadn’t left home in 25 years and her bed in 13 - owing to severe lymphedema (swelling in arms or legs) and water retention. The family had nearly given up hope of restoring Eman’s quality of life when it approached Dr Muffazal Lakdawala, bariatric surgeon, as a last-ditch effort. Moved by the family’s plight, Dr Lakdawala offered to perform a surgery for free to remove much of Eman’s flab.
All seating from ground floor office of Saifee Hospital, Charni Road, cleared to make room for Eman
On her arrival, Eman will be taken in a fully-equipped truck to Saifee Hospital, which is sponsoring the treatment. The hospital’s ground floor office has been turned into a dedicated facility that will cater to all of Eman’s needs for the next six months of her treatment.
Dr Muffazal Lakdawala - accompanied by Dr Aparna Govil Bhasker, advanced laparoscopic and bariatric surgeon at Centre for Obesity and Diabetes Surgery and head of department of bariatric surgery at Saifee Hospital, and Dr Kamlesh Bohra, senior intensivist, department of critical and intensive care - will be the crack team attending to her.
The special facility for Eman was put together after the BMC last week demolished Saifee Hospital’s temporary - and illegal - operation theatre, built exclusively for Eman at a cost of R2 crore. “We had limited time since the demolition to make alternative arrangements. Since she can’t be carried upstairs, the ground floor office was the only option,” said a doctor from the hospital.
The Egyptian national needs customised facilities owing to her weight and large girth (1.6 m). Saifee Hospital has been clearing its ground floor office since Thursday night in preparation for its possibly most challenging case. All chairs and furniture have been removed to make room.
The truck that will ferry Eman from the airport to the hospital will be tailed by an ambulance and a police van. The cot in which she is being carried has been specially built to sustain the weight.
A team of doctors from Saifee Hospital had gone to Alexandria, Eman’s hometown 10 days ago to optimise the conditions for her travel. Since she faced the risk of developing pulmonary embolism during the flight, the doctors put her on blood thinners to avert such an eventuality.
Even the freighter was modified and equipped with medical equipment for contingencies.
All precautions taken
On BitGivingg, a crowdfunding platform where money for Eman’s treatment is being raised through ‘Help Save Eman - The Heaviest Woman in the World’ campaign, Dr Muffazal Lakdawala, who is also the chairman of the Institute of Minimal Invasive Surgical Sciences and Research Centre at Saifee Hospital, said all precautions have been taken to ensure that Eman’s journey from Alexandria to Mumbai is uneventful. Doctors are with her to ensure she is stable and comfortable, he said.
Sushma wishes success
Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, who had cleared the decks for Eman’s medical visa on December 5 (see box: A mountain of obstacles), congratulated Dr Lakdawala via a tweet last evening. “Lakdawala has informed me that Eman Ahmed is reaching Mumbai from Egypt for her surgery. I wish her a successful surgery here,” she said. Dr Lakdawala thanked her for clearing the decks for visa.
Multitude of ailments
Eman was born weighing a staggering 5 kg and was diagnosed with elephantiasis - a parasitic infection that causes extreme swelling in limbs. She suffers from severe lymphedema and water retention. She has suffered a stroke, which paralysed her right arm and leg. She cannot speak coherently, has Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, hypothyroidism, severe obstructive and restrictive lung disease and gout, and faces a very high risk of developing pulmonary embolism.
A mountain of obstacles
Dec 7, 2016
>> After bariatric surgeon Dr Muffazal Lakdawala offers to help out Eman Ahmed Abdulati, the family faces problems getting a visa for her. Dr Lakdawala tweets to Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on December 5. Eman’s medical visa is approved the same afternoon.
>> With air ambulances being ruled out - since the doors of such aircraft aren’t wide enough, family is devastated on finding out that it may have to cough up R20 lakh to pay for a commercial flight to Mumbai since seats in such flights can be dismantled
>> Seeing it as an affront, Egypt put together a crack team of bariatric surgeons. Messages of #Egyptians_are_capable begin doing the rounds. The Egyptian Army offers to provide logistics support to transport Eman from Alexandria to Cairo. But family insists on coming to India
Jan 14, 2017
>> Once all the decks are cleared, Charni Road-based Saifee Hospital begins constructing a 3,000-sqft temporary facility, with a dedicated OTâÂÂÂÂand an ICU, without waiting for BMC clearance. It claims it had sent an application in the first week of January to the BMC to approve the structure for six months
>> BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta rejects the application, orders immediate halt of construction of the unauthorised structure. The construction of the customised operation table, wider doors, and a stronger bed to support the weight of the 500-kg patient was almost complete when the order came
>> In the meantime, the family gets desperate - approaches every airline with routes connecting to Mumbai, offers to break down walls of its home when aid arrives and even considers travel by sea at one point. Eman’s diet is down just one meal a day
>> Dr Lakdawala launches crowdfunding campaign - #HelpSaveEman - to raise R50 lakh for her transport and medicines. Saifee Hospital starts official Tumblr account: SaveEmanCause
>> Saifee Hospital doctors visit Eman to assess her condition and run a series of tests
>> Saifee Hospital demolishes the R2-crore special operation theatre, which was being illegally built on a cemetery. With time running out, family becomes desperate. Egyptian doctors question claims of top-notch facilities for Eman in India