MUMBAI: Egyptian Eman Ahmed, who weighed around 500kg when she landed in Mumbai on February 11, has reduced to 173kg and is likely to return home to Alexandria within a fortnight.
However, the happy development took on an ugly tone on Monday, with a war of words breaking out between Eman’s sister Shaimaa Selim and her treating doctors.
A video in Arabic with English subtitles that has been shared on social media platforms shows Shaimaa alleging that Eman’s health is delicate, her pallor has turned blue and she has suffered a second stroke and several epileptic fits since landing in Mumbai.
Doctors and administrators of Saifee Hospital, which has been Eman and Shaimaa’s address in the city, rebutted the allegations.
“We have constantly reiterated that Eman’s recovery is a process and not an event. The process is ongoing, an entire team of doctors is tirelessly working night and day. The progress is most heartening,” said a press statement put out by the hospital.
A CT scan that Eman will undergo on Tuesday may provide the answers. “We have been waiting for Eman to reduce below 200kg so that the CT scanners can bear her weight,” said Dr Muffazal Lakdawala, the main doctor involved in Eman’s treatment. The brain scan is likely to reveal the cause for her fits; while doctors believe the fits originate from the scar of a stroke Eman suffered three years ago, the sister is convinced it is due to a new blood clot after the bariatric surgery on March 7.
“Nobody in the world can lose 300kg in two months. It is not magic. Where is the before and after proof?” Shaimaa told. In response, Saifee Hospital authorities produced the first letter that Shaimaa wrote to Dr Lakdawala almost nine months back, stating that Eman weighs “five hundred (500) kilograms”. They also weighed Eman, along with her bed, in the first week and found her to be 498kg.
Eman landed in Mumbai on February 11 after external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj intervened to get her a visa. The customized flight to Mumbai alone cost Rs 83 lakh. Saifee Hospital chief operating officer Huzaifa Shehabi told media on Monday that Eman’s treatment would have cost almost Rs 1 crore in the last 75 days.
He said the “problems” with the sister began soon after Eman was moved from the special enclosure made for her on the hospital’s first floor to the seventh floor room. “Suddenly, Eman was a regular patient. Her obesity-related problems were under control with medications and she wasn’t attached to any machines. It was logical for us to plan her return home,” said the hospital authorities. The hospital had intended to send Eman back when she reached 250kg, with plans to get her back after a year for a second-stage surgery in case she didn’t lose adequate weight.
Eman still has a tube for feeding because the three-year-old stroke has affected her power to swallow, said doctors. She is undergoing speech therapy, but the progress has been slow.
The medical opinion is that Eman now needs a series of rehabilitation services. “As the rehab can be done anywhere, Eman can go back to Alexandria,” said Shehabi. But her sister is convinced that it’s not going to be easy.
Eman stopped walking when she turned 11 and has been bedridden for the past few years. It was only last month that an extensive genetic test revealed she has a mutation in the LEPR gene that resulted in her extensive weight gain. She is likely to be enrolled for a first-ever clinical drug trial in the US for this condition. “However, she will have to complete six months of surgery before she can be started on the drug,” said Dr Lakdawala. Eman was operated on March 7.
When Eman was brought to Mumbai, she was placed on a customised hospital bed that was then lifted using a crane from her Alexandria flat and put into a retrofitted cargo plane. A crane was also used to place the bed in an enclosure in Saifee Hospital’s first floor. “However, she has reduced so much that she can now travel business class. We will get two tickets to fit her in,” said Dr Lakdawala.