Video to Facebook post: How high-profile weight loss script went awry in Mumbai

The hospital says it spent Rs 1 crore on transport for Eman from her home in Alexandria to Mumbai, and Rs 1 crore on free treatment.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai | Updated: April 29, 2017 8:34 am
Eman Ahmed, eman, eman weight loss, egypt heaviest woman, heaviest woman, saifee hospital, weight loss, bariatric surgeon, indian express news, india news Eman Ahmed weighed around 500 kg when she was flown to Mumbai from Alexandria two months ago. Source: Amit Chakravarty

Twenty days ago, Huzaifa Shehabi, chief operating officer at Saifee Hospital, was in his office when bariatric surgeon Muffazal Lakdawala stepped in for tea. Lakdawala vaguely referred to minor disputes with the sister of Eman Ahmed, who had weighed around 500 kg when she was flown in from Egypt two months ago, over plans of a discharge.

Both of them didn’t realise it then, but the high-profile surgery was about to take an ugly turn.

Last week, what began as a hopeful journey to save Eman Ahmed Abd Et Aty (36), said to be the world’s heaviest woman, spun into a social media spat between doctors and her sister Shaimaa Selim that grabbed global attention.

Read |For Eman Ahmed’s doctors, it’s time to go high!

“If she had approached me, I would have readily kept Eman for longer. But she chose social media to show her anger,” says Shehabi. It was on March 13 that Selim (34) saw a news report, which suggested that doctors may send Eman back to Egypt. “I asked Dr Muffazal, but he said ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry’,” Selim claims. By April 1, she was convinced the hospital had “used” Eman for “publicity”.

The hospital says it spent Rs 1 crore on transport for Eman from her home in Alexandria to Mumbai, and Rs 1 crore on free treatment. Selim says she left her job as engineer and a two-year-old daughter to see Eman walk.

Read | Eman’s kin reach out to Abu Dhabi hospital for her treatment

On March 7, the first bariatric procedure was conducted. The Egyptian had shed 120 kg, and Selim hoped six months or a year in hospital would cure her sister. Eman had sleep apnea, hypothyroid, diabetes, hypertension, kidney problems, fluid retention and obesity. By mid-March, her renal functions were under control, creatinine levels had stabilised from 3.7 mg/dL to 1 mg/dL, sleep had returned at nights, and a high-protein diet had ensured significant weight loss.

But there were concerns over the eight epileptic seizures Eman had suffered in those two months, and the paralysis on the right side of her body.

As April inched closer, Lakdawala informed Selim that Eman was fit to go home, that “no hospital keeps a patient for physiotherapy”. “She expects that her sister will start walking one day. I never promised her that. When Eman was brought here, I thought even if she returned home sitting that would be a victory. We have reached that point,” says Lakdawala.

For the next few days, Selim repeatedly asked doctors to keep Eman for a few more months. There were other concerns. With no nursing team around, where would she get the four people needed to shift her sister around? What if Eman had another seizure, who would carry her to hospital? Where would the money for future treatment come from?

Before the Mumbai trip, Eman’s family used to spend 7,000 Egyptian pounds (Rs 25,000) for her care every month. Her mother, Sana Selim, held a tailoring job and her father had passed away in 2016.

Selim admits that she became hostile, blocking all attempts by the hospital to take Eman’s videos for “cheap publicity”. Shortly after April 10, she and Lakdawala were locked in a bitter fight. On April 14, she took to social media with a video of Eman. “I did that to contradict the claims of doctors that she was completely fit for discharge,” she says.

That video took the face-off to the edge. Selim started getting “angry with the nursing staff”. And, on the night of April 24, four doctors treating Eman took to Facebook to tender their resignation as a symbolic protest against Selim’s approach.

“This is a special case and there are emotions attached. I have worked in government hospitals, and patient conflicts are normal. But this has never happened. The Facebook post was my platform to express my thoughts,” says Dr Nimisha Kantharia, consultant surgeon.

“The last three weeks have been full of resistance. Eman’s growth would have been faster if she and her sister had cooperated in physiotherapy,” says nephrologist Dr Hemal Shah, adding, “Until a month ago we were heroes.”

Meanwhile, Eman’s weight increased, for the first time since she was admitted — from 171 kg to 176.6 kg on Thursday.

“Even if one medical parameter went off track, we would rush to her side. As a team, we have been shamed for no fault,” says Dr Neha Dhulla, Eman’s nutritionist who was among the four who took to Facebook that night.

The Egyptian consulate general Ahmed Khalil tried to resolve the face-off, but the meeting ended in a deadlock.

Lakdawala claims he stayed by Eman’s side for three nights when she was unwell. In return, he says, Eman would communicate through Google translator, blow kisses and watch Bollywood movies — until last month.

Eman now complains of constant pain in her legs. “If she continues to remain bed-ridden, what was the point? The hospital should give her six months and then accept defeat,” says Selim.

Hospital authorities argue that Eman’s anatomical structure will never let her walk. “We have cutting edge in obesity, not in neurology. We kept our promise and brought her weight down,” says Shehabi, the COO.

With Selim now preparing to shift Eman to Abu Dhabi for treatment under VPS Healthcare, calls have come in from Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, and Maharashtra’s Tourism Minister Jaykumar Rawal and Health Minister Deepak Sawant.

The hospital has shifted Eman to a smaller room. On Tuesday, Lakdawala was invited to speak on an Egyptian news channel where he was accused of embezzlement of funds. “If I had ruined a patient’s life, I would understand the family’s anger. But we toiled hard in this case. Instead of gratitude, she has accused the Indian medical fraternity,” says Lakdawala.

In the hospital, guards keep a wary eye on Selim, fearing an outburst or a frenzied media at her heels. And Eman remains in her bed on the seventh floor, feeding tubes sustaining her, an oxygen mask pumping life into her at nights.

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  1. D
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    1. R
      Romik
      Apr 29, 2017 at 7:51 pm
      That is why we have long written contracts before starting any treatment in the US. This save patients & Drs from a lot of problems like this.
      Reply
      1. R
        RAJESH MAYEKAR
        Apr 29, 2017 at 6:08 pm
        500- 176 324......kgs weight loss...
        Reply
        1. N
          natraj
          Apr 29, 2017 at 3:33 pm
          these doctors are like B and C grade heroines ready to do anything for publicity and money - when you take a patient todays technology is so high that you can easily predict the outcome ans success - i know these buggers to make entry in some world record or medical record used body of a patient - which nation will bring foreign patient on their cost - all fraudsters- it is legal duty of doctor to treat complication of patient from which these buggers are running
          Reply
          1. R
            RAJESH MAYEKAR
            Apr 29, 2017 at 6:16 pm
            your google intellectual technolgical help is urgently needed to help patient
            Reply
          2. I
            Indrajit Datta
            Apr 29, 2017 at 1:03 pm
            Gov of India should intervene and help this family to establish goodwill between two countries India and Egypt
            Reply
            1. I
              Indrajit Datta
              Apr 29, 2017 at 1:03 pm
              Gov of India should intervene and help this family to establish goodwill between two countries India and Egypt
              Reply
              1. P
                Pankaj
                Apr 29, 2017 at 12:35 pm
                They wanted fame, but got infamy. There are many in the medical fraternity whose ethics are under question. open secret
                Reply
                1. T
                  Thomas
                  Apr 29, 2017 at 10:48 am
                  Are you seeking for an opportunity to sell your kidney for money due to financial break down and we shall offer you $450,000,00 USD for your Kidney. My name is Dr. Patrick Thomas, Please call or Whats-app 919500338353 for more detains.
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                  1. S
                    Sujatha Selvam
                    Apr 29, 2017 at 11:46 am
                    Are you Fake?
                    Reply
                  2. A
                    Anjam Desi
                    Apr 29, 2017 at 7:50 am
                    The doctor should have calculated costs involved before embarking on this experiment. Now the hospital costs are rising and patient is half way to recovery. The Mumbai Muslim community could help her out. Perhaps approach Shah Rukh Khan or Salman or Aamir for financial support to help a Muslim sister.
                    Reply
                    1. S
                      Sujatha Selvam
                      Apr 29, 2017 at 11:44 am
                      IF MONEY IS THE REAL ISSUE, THAT CAN BE SOLVED WITHIN A COUPLE OF DAYS. THE HOSPITAL IS SAYING THIS. JUST A CALL FROM THE HOSPITAL FOR HELP, WILL DO, ENOUGH MONEY WILL BE COLLECTED.
                      Reply
                      1. R
                        RAJESH MAYEKAR
                        Apr 29, 2017 at 6:10 pm
                        how religion comes into the picture
                        Reply
                      2. A
                        Anand Ch
                        Apr 29, 2017 at 7:14 am
                        Over enthusiasm and unplanned adventures have a price to pay. What were the objectives of the surgeon and hospital while taking up her case ? There are several advanced countries and hospital which didn't take up. Then why this man volunteered?
                        Reply
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                          Pankaj
                          Apr 29, 2017 at 12:35 pm
                          Maybe for instant fame
                          Reply
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                          David
                          Apr 29, 2017 at 7:04 am
                          India is a soft state. Help our own poor. Don't treat stanis. They kill us.
                          Reply
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