ON FEBRUARY 11, when Eman Ahmed Abd El Ati was brought to Saifee hospital in Mumbai from Egypt for a high-profile weight reduction surgery, the media was asked to respect her privacy. But on Thursday, as Eman was wheeled out through a 100-ft passage on her way to the airport and further treatment in Abu Dhabi, the doors in the hospital’s lobby were wide open.
“Nobody told me this would happen,” said Shaimaa Selim, Eman’s younger sister, visibly angry, as the ambulance left for the international airport through a 20-km special corridor.
At the hospital earlier, Shaimaa was shoved around as photographers struggled to reach her sister. So were doctors from VPS Healthcare’s Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi, where Eman will be admitted. One of them turned around and questioned the hospital’s decision to allow “such a media display”.
The hospital, which has a private exit door at the rear, also delayed Eman’s discharge by half-an-hour, as authorities waited for Maharashtra Health Minister Deepak Sawant to arrive. And when Eman left, Sawant and BJP’s Shaina NC, who had sought an apology earlier for Shaimaa’s outburst against Saifee’s doctors, were close by.
Earlier this week, the hospital allowed singers Roop Kumar Rathod and Sonali Rathod to shoot a video of them singing to Eman.
Saifee authorities say they have documented permission from Eman’s family, taken at the onset of treatment at her home in Alexandria, which grants them the right to publicise her case. But Eman’s relatives claim they did not know what kind of publicity the consent would entail.
“It was more for a scientific purpose. But with the world media showing interest, we had to allow them today,” said Dr Muffazal Lakdawala, the bariatric surgeon who treated her.
Meanwhile, Eman, in a pink uniform, left the hospital with a confused look on her face. The 36-year-old already suffers from paralysis on her right side and has difficulty in speech, and could do nothing about the constant shoving by reporters, photographers and cameramen.
Relatives of other patients, too, had gathered to catch a glimpse of the patient whose case had caught global attention. “But why aim for publicity?” asked Sabiha, whose daughter is undergoing treatment at the hospital.
Finally, at 7.41 pm, Eman took off for the UAE in an Egypt Special Airbus 300 after undergoing routine procedure, such as X-ray, and a complete profile scan to declare her fit for travel. Accompanying her on the flight was an Egyptian ICU specialist, a nurse, and Sanet Meyer, director of Medevac, VPS Healthcare, in Abu Dhabi.
Doctors at Saifee hospital claim Eman has shed weight — from 498 kg to 170 kg — in three months. But two months into the treatment, a dispute rose over discharge between Shaimaa and doctors, forcing the move to Abu Dhabi. While Saifee presented videos and photos of Eman as proof of medical improvement, she continued to remain bed-bound, dependent on tube feed.
Eman’s mother Sana and Shaimaa’s two-year-old daughter are planning to visit them in Abu Dhabi. “Eman is happy to go because she will finally meet our mother,” said Shaimaa.
According to a spokesperson of VPS Healthcare, special arrangements have been made to handle Eman in Burjeel Hospital. She will continue rehabilitation and physiotherapy before a call on further treatment is taken, the spokesperson said.
Back in Mumbai, Egyptian consulate general Ahmed Khalil said, “I do not want to get into it (the dispute). But I have seen that the hospital has done good work. And I really hope there is a happy ending.”