Eman Ahmed reaches UAE, gets assurance of treatment

Eman Ahmed reaches UAE, gets assurance of treatment

ABU DHABI, May6: Eman Ahmed woke up to her first morning in the Emirates, stretched out on the island of her gigantic bed and blanketed in a thick layer of skin when a faint smile flickered across her face. Her new home against a backdrop of swathes of sand that lies still and silent yet perpetually moving has almost become a metaphor for the 36-year-old and her incredible journey in cranes, planes and trucks from Alexandria to Mumbai+ to Abu Dhabi while she remained caged in her body.

“She looks happy after a long time. Eman and I were both so anxious with so many people swooping down on us; we cried yesterday on our journey out of Saifee Hospital to the airport. In the aircraft, Eman fell into deep sleep despite the noisy cargo flight,” her sister Shaimaa Semil told TOI standing in the isolated ICU room at the Burjeel Hospital, Eman’s home for the coming months.

Twenty minutes and twenty hands of paramedics, doctors and hospital staffers is what it took to hoist a bed-bound Eman out of the supersized ambulance and wheel her into Burjeel on Thursday night after she made her way into the centre of UAE’s capital city, escorted by Abu Dhabi Police and Civil Defence vehicles, for a second chance at a “normal body”.

The arrival of someone who until three months ago was believed to be the heaviest woman in the world and still weighs a staggering 170 kg managed to stir up the quiet neighbourhood of Al Najdah Street as locals thronged the hospital gates with their cellphone cameras and two words on their lips “ahlan” and “la taqlaq” (welcome and don’t worry, in Arabic). Shaimaa’s mother and daughter will soon be joining Eman in Abu Dhabi.

The target to make her “normal” or “close to normal” could take six months to a year, informed Yassin Elshahat, chief medical officer at Burjeel while Friday was spent in “thorough assessment” of Eman’s parameters by a team of 20 multidisciplinary doctors before they put a “long and short term plan” in place.

“I need people treating Eman like any other human, not as the `heaviest woman in the world’ to grab attention. It’s no longer about weight loss but about curing the other ailments Eman is suffering from,” insists Shaimaa, buoyant about Eman’s second phase of treatment led by Shamsheer Vayalil’s VPS Healthcare group. “Unlike Saifee Hospital where all the promises were verbal and therefore easily broken, Burjeel’s invitation to host Eman for a year has been given to me in writing,” she says.
Eman’s stay in India was marred by disagreements between Shaimaa and the doctors at Saifee+ that raised questions on Eman’s weight-loss and a possible stroke. The controversies, Shaimaa says, have hurt the family. “We’re three sisters. The youngest is married and busy with her family and kids. I’ve taken a two-year break from work to make sure Eman returns to normalcy while my mother is looking after my two-year-old daughter at home and managing her garment business. Eman’s like my first baby,” smiled the 34-year-old architect and interior designer. “I was pushed to take this step. Saifee team was constantly filming and photographing Eman in the room, sharing things with the world but never with me. Including her weight. Everything was a public spectacle.”

 Like a deer caught in the headlights, Shaimaa whispered: “We’re only girls in our family and our lives revolve around each other. All this attention was uncalled for.”
For Shaimaa, the journey to India and UAE have been her first steps outside Egypt. “I know I’m on the right path and confident that Eman will be able to walk and speak again.” Eman’s dream that she shared with Shaimaa before they set out on their long journey from home is to “resume her education.”
While the future of Eman’s health continues to raise a storm outside, her happy space within the hospital walls inhabits a little tape recorder with Egyptian melodies that both sisters shimmy and shake to when no one’s watching. “Before the stroke, Eman would wiggle sitting on the bed. Now, I dance while Eman nods and laughs.”