From war-torn Lahij in Yemen to New Delhi, 14-year-old Fatima Hamed has come a long way. But the distance is nothing compared to the medical journey she has covered — from being bedridden due to seizures every few minutes to climbing down a flight of stairs without help. Three years after severe seizures were brought on by a rare neurological disease, Rasmussen’s Encephalitis, Hamed is now making a remarkable recovery — following a drastic six-hour surgery at Fortis Hospital on April 14, wherein the right side of her brain was “disconnected”.
“The right side of her brain was impacted, so we conducted a functional Hemispherectomy, in which only some portions of the right side were removed and the rest of it was disconnected. Chances of seizures ending were 80 per cent but we didn’t think she would be able to walk. Five days after the surgery, when she walked, we were surprised,” said Dr Anurag Gupta, consultant neurosurgeon at Fortis Hospital’s Vasant Kunj, who operated on Hamed along with Dr Rana Patir, head of neurosurgery at the hospital. The surgery took place in Fortis Gurgaon. Gupta said the rare surgery has been performed only a few times at AIIMS.
A little more than a month later, Hamed and her mother Ebtsam Othman (39) sat inside a studio apartment in Saket — a wheelchair now rendered useless in a corner. Their Delhi-based relative Ahmed has been playing translator for them. “Since I couldn’t talk properly or at length due to the seizures, the first thing I did after recovering was call up my brothers in Lahij and tell them about the doctors and Delhi. I also went to Select CityWalk mall… I’m taking a sari and a suit back home,” said Hamed, showing a red and black Anarkali lying on her bed.
Gupta recalled his first meeting with Hamed when, in a span of five minutes, she had at least five seizures. Dr Abhilekh Srivastava, an associate consultant, neurology at Fortis Vasant Kunj, said, “She was incapacitated when we first began her treatment, under the head of neurology Dr Madhuri Behari. We tried five drugs and she didn’t respond. The right side of the brain had shrunk because of which her left side was weak… then we looked at her scans, read some literature, and told the family it was Rasmusssen’s Encephalitis, which responds well only to surgery.”
Her mother’s relief is palpable. “Fatima was in Class VIII when she had to leave school. We got her operated in Yemen. For a month, she was fine, and then the seizures began again — sometimes two in a minute.” With money scarce, the last three years have been hard. Othman said “relatives and strangers from Yemen and Saudi Arabia pooled in to raise close to Rs 2 lakh to fund the surgery”. In a month, the two will return home. Tapping her left hand to signal the weakness, she added, “Only this is not working… hopefully it will, too, soon.”