UAE: Innovative treatment helps woman walk again after being bedridden for 5 years

At the time of admission, she was unable to talk or eat anything

(L-R) Dr Nihad Abbas and Dr Wael Jebur
(L-R) Dr Nihad Abbas and Dr Wael Jebur

By SM Ayaz Zakir

Published: Fri 11 Feb 2022, 11:13 AM

Sanaa Mohammed Salem only had one thing to say to every caregiver who came to see her after she was discharged: "Finally, I am walking again."

The 33-year-old from Socotra Island began experiencing muscle weakness and worsening fatigue five years ago. It wasn't long before the young mother of two was confined to her bed and being taken care of by her family.

However, her home country, Yemen, didn't have have the necessary medical infrastructure to help her. In September 2021, she was admitted to a hospital in Socotra, funded by generous grants from the UAE Government. A month later, she was transferred to NMC Royal Hospital in Abu Dhabi.

Dr Nihad Abbas, general practitioner, NMC Royal Hospital, said that Sanaa’s main complaint was severe muscle weakness in her lower limbs.

“The condition kept her bedridden for several months, resulting in nasty bed sores. She wasn’t able to talk or eat anything at the time of her admission,” Dr Abbas said.

Not only did she have trouble walking, but she couldn't sit or turn over in bed due to her condition. She also suffered from depression because she was socially isolated and unable to take care of herself or her family. Though she had sought treatment in her home country multiple times, it was to no avail.

Dr Wael Jebur, consultant nephrology, at NMC Royal Hospital, said Sanaa experienced pain so severe that even a touch could make her scream.

“Despite subjecting her to multiple specialities, the cause of her symptoms remained hidden until we diagnosed her as suffering from Renal Tubular Acidosis causing her osteopenia - a condition that begins as one loses bone mass making them go weaker - and electrolyte disturbance. Electrolytes regulate nerve and muscle function, hydrate the body, balance blood acidity and pressure, and help rebuild damaged tissue and an imbalance could lead to our vital body functions systems getting affected,” Dr Jebur said.

Her treatment included electrolyte replacement and extensive physiotherapy, which proved difficult at first because of the pain she was experiencing.

“Clinically, she was very thin and feeble, especially from lack of nutrition and illnesses and owing to a lack of physical activity causing rapid deterioration of the muscles and bones," said Dr Wael.

“The management of Sanaa’s condition was aimed at correcting the underlying metabolic abnormalities and replacement of deficiencies along with gradually intensified physiotherapy to improve muscle health and strength,” he added.


After more than 100 days of being under intensive care, Sanaa started gaining the strength to move her muscles. She was discharged on her 105th day of admission on September 27, 2021.

Expressing his happiness at Sanaa’s recovery, NMC Healthcare CEO Michael Davis said: “It is heartening to witness not only a life getting saved and preserved, but also the sufferings of an entire family getting relieved. I remain grateful to my doctors, nurses and caregivers who brought about this miraculous outcome.”

Doctors are monitoring her progress and health over teleconsultations.

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