Interview: Dr Muffazal Lakdawala opens up about Eman Ahmed's surgery, her family's allegations
In his first interview after allegations of negligence by Eman Ahmed Abdulati's family, bariatric surgeon Dr Muffazal Lakdawala clears the air over the landmark surgery
As his most challenging medical case inches close to completion, Dr Muffazal Lakdawala is filled with both pride and an overwhelming sense of betrayal. "She was dead there (Egypt). We brought her back to life," says the renowned bariatric surgeon about Eman Ahmed Abdulati, whose journey to a quality life was the stuff that medical miracle stories are made of. In his first interview since Eman's family made shocking allegations against him and Saifee Hospital, Dr Lakdawala insists that he has delivered on all that he promised.
Earlier this week, Eman's sister, Shaimaa, and mother Thanaa, alleged that her condition had deteriorated since her arrival in Mumbai in February, that the claim of the 250-kg weight loss was hogwash and that the family had been taken for a ride by a publicity-hungry medical team. Amidst such acrimony, Eman is now getting ready to fly to Abu Dhabi for further treatment.
Dr Lakdawala says despite the ugly spat, he's ready to forgive his "baby", Eman, and her family and put the nastiness behind. "I did my job honestly. Her bariatric surgery was a success," he asserts.
Dr Aparna Govil Bhasker, section chief of bariatric surgery, Saifee Hospital, and bariatric surgeon Dr Muffazal Lakdawala. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
Excerpts from an interview:
When did you get in touch with Eman's family to get her to India?
Foreign newspapers first called her the heaviest woman in September last year. I didn't know about her then. A doctor in Egypt who knows me recommended me to Shaimaa. She then looked me up on Google and wrote to me, asking for help. That's when I entered the picture, and found out that doctors in Egypt had refused to treat her. I took up the case even though my colleagues warned me against it, saying I was setting myself up for failure.
When did things sour?
Everything was fine till 15 days ago. We told Shaimaa then that after the CT scan, we would send Eman back to Egypt. She got agitated and began making allegations. Shaimaa has been Eman's caregiver for years and now, she is enjoying her freedom for the first time; she doesn't want to go back to taking on that role again. She hardly spends time with Eman. It is the nurses, attendants and doctors who are with Eman. She wants Eman to be kept in the hospital till all her medical issues are resolved. But we had only promised to bring down her weight, and we've done that. I had promised that Eman would be able to sit on her own before leaving Mumbai; we've done that. In my first press conference, too, I had said walking would be a distant dream. The Arabic-English language barrier has also added to the confusion.
Dr Aparna Govil Bhasker, section chief of bariatric surgery, Saifee Hospital, and bariatric surgeon Dr Muffazal Lakdawala at Centre for Obesity and Diabetes Surgery in Gamdevi. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
How's Eman now?
She currently weighs 176 kg. That, in itself, is a miracle. When Shaimaa is not around, I go to meet her. She smiles at me. When the health minister paid a visit on Thursday, she blew a kiss. But Shaimaa told her not to smile. All chronic complications like hypo-thyroidism, cardiovascular, respiratory and hypertension have been resolved.
Shaimaa claims that she didn't have seizures in Egypt. So, why is she having seizures now?
The CT scan report suggests an old vascular insult (injury) in the brain. There is no appreciable area of fresh infarct or intracranial haemorrhage (no fresh internal bleeding). Most of the time, she gets absence seizures when she stares at one spot continuously. Chances are she used to get these seizures back at home, but her family didn't realise it.
Shaimaa claims that Eman could eat solid food and drink water back home. Why has she been prohibited from doing that now?
If we remove the feeding tube, she can eat and drink. But we fear that it may put her life in danger — she will aspirate and the water will get into her lungs. That's the reason why two days after her arrival in Mumbai, she was put on the tube. If her tube is removed once she leaves Saifee Hospital, there are chances that she would develop pneumonia.
Shaimaa also claims that Eman could sit up on her own even after suffering a stroke three years ago. But now, despite losing 300 kg, she needs help to sit up. Why's that?
The stroke paralysed her right side. How can you expect someone who didn't move in three years to sit up on her own? Still, with the help of a rod beside her bed, she tries to sit up.
Several photographs of Eman suffering from seizures have been circulated on social media, claiming that her condition is still critical.
Ten days after arriving in Mumbai, Eman suffered a stroke and the pictures were taken during then. Shaimaa has circulated them, claiming that they are current ones. All of this was planned.
And, why would anyone circulate such a personal picture of a patient on social media? It is so heartless.
Do you feel a sense of betrayal?
I have treated Eman like my own baby. When she had a bad phase of health in the initial days of her arrival, I slept in her room the whole night, while her sister slept in the adjoining room. People get defamed for doing wrong, but I gave her the best treatment available. I topped my class, but I'm still presented as a failure.
It has been alleged that it is impossible to lose 300 kg in two months.
The weighing scale attached to her bed shows that she is 176 kg now. The first time we weighed her was on March 2; she was 378 kg then. Prior to that, she had never been weighed. Shaimaa kept claiming that her weight was 500 kg and the documents submitted also state the same. I took her word for it since we didn't any mechanism to weight her earlier.
Shaimaa has decided to take her to Abu Dhabi for treatment, although she is completely fine now. The main challenge, the surgery, has been completed. We have asked the UAE doctors who visited her to provide us their assessment report, but we haven't got it yet. On Friday, we submitted Eman's reports to the Egyptian consulate.
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