"I want to live happily once again with my family"
Olive Lopez (second from left), with her family
Sharjah - Despite financial constraints, she looks to cochlear implants to regain normal life
By Saman Haziq
Published: Mon 21 Aug 2017, 6:04 PM
Last updated: Wed 11 Sep 2019, 9:50 AM
Appreciate what you have before it turns to "what you had".
That's the message this 41-year-old Indian expat Olive Lopez, a Sharjah-based mother - who has been living on hope, prayers and life-saving medicines for the last two years - wishes to send across the world.
From failing kidneys and heart problems to suffering hearing loss and almost losing her eyesight, Olive says she had stared at death many times, but what kept her going is her family. "I want to live and take care of my two school-going daughters and my hardworking husband who will be shattered and lost without me."
Olive's only hope to regain her normal life is by getting cochlear implants that cost a whopping Dh250,000 in the UAE. Despite financial constraints, she is trying to manage the funding for it. She believes miracles do happen.
A tenacious hope keeps her afloat amid the surge of tide. Olive hopes to be able to hear the voice of her daughters, her ageing mother and the rest of her family.
Her life changed in 2014 when both her kidneys failed and she had to undergo dialysis every week. She then lost her hearing due to the deadly cocktail of medicines needed to stay alive. "It was a total shock for me and my family. I was not even sure whether I would survive the life-threatening illness. I kept crying for days with just the thought that if anything happens to me how will my two young girls and my husband live," Olive told Khaleej Times.
Her daughters were just 13 and 10, then. "They became totally quiet seeing me in distress. I tried to keep calm but it was extremely tough. I said to myself that 'I have to fight this battle not for myself but for my family'. My family kept giving me hope and courage that everything would be fine soon and we would all live happily together once again," she said.
Olive went to India for treatment and her brother donated his kidney. However, during treatment, Olive suffered various complications. "I almost lost my eyesight because of excess fluid in my body. Then came heart problems that are common during kidney failure. I had several channels made on my body - like neck, chest and thighs - for dialysis as my fistula, which is a permanent channel, couldn't work due to my weak veins."
Even as she was reeling under the trauma, tragedy struck yet again. The deadly mix of antibiotics damaged Olive's cochlear, so not only did she suffer a hearing loss but even hearing aids now can't work on her since her brain does not get hearing signals. Even when she hears people talk, she cannot understand what's being spoken. "Since my cochlear is damaged, my brain doesn't get signals to understand speech. This is the reason why hearing aids can't help me. I cannot understand what is being spoken," Olive said via email and WhatsApp.
Surgery after surgery
"The only way she talks to us is through WhatsApp. She can talk but she cannot hear us, so the only way she communicates to all of us is through WhatsApp," said Jonathan, Olive's husband.
Olive's can live like before if she gets cochlear implants. However, it is very expensive: costing Dh250,000 in the UAE. Due to lack of funds, she has planned to get it done in India for Dh55,000. The cost includes Olive's surgery, recovery, training to hear again and travel. Even after running from pillar to post, Olive has managed less than half of that amount. "My husband is working hard but due to his low salary, we can barely make ends meet. I have only three weeks left before the date given for the surgery, but I am hopeful that God will surely do some miracle. When we are good, and pray to God and trust Him, then we should leave everything in His hands. He will do what is best for us," an optimistic Olive told Khaleej Times.
To arrange funds for the cochlear surgery, the gritty woman has been knocking on many doors in the UAE - including hospitals and foundations. Despite all odds, she continues to smile because the UAE gives her hope.
Olive used to work as a secretary and her company has promised to reinstate her once she gets back her hearing power. Meanwhile, she has to take many life-saving medicines every day to ensure her brother's kidney is not rejected by her body.
Keeping her motivated and hopeful are Noor al Khouri and Garth Mitchell from Valley of Love, a 15-year-old NGO in Dubai, who have created a circle of life from among their friends and family. For the last two years, Garth along with Noor and some good friends have been contributing on a monthly basis to meet Olive's daily expenses. "We try to contribute the amount equal to the salary Olive earned as a secretary (Dh4,500) monthly. She has inspired us to count our blessings and thank God for whatever He has given us. Even after going through so much, Olive manages to sport a smile, then what excuse do we have to complain," Garth told Khaleej Times.
"I am extremely grateful and indebted to the generous people of the UAE, for helping me with my kidney transplant and to my circle of life, who continue to help me and my family, while I await help from people, government or organisations to fund my cochlear implant surgery.
I am also grateful to my boss who has promised to hire me once I get my hearing back. However, without funding for the cochlear implant, I will lose my job. I have two daughters studying in a Dubai school, with my eldest in Grade 10 to appear for her external board examinations in a few months," said Olive.
There is a tinge of helplessness and pain in her words, but her steely spirit refuses to yield.