Abu Dhabi

UAE braces to give Eman new hope

Anjana Sankar/Abu Dhabi
Filed on May 3, 2017
UAE braces to give Eman new hope
Dr Shamsheer Vayalil and staff from Burjeel Hospital greet Eman during their visit to Saifee Hosptial in Mumbai. 36-year-old Eman will be flown in to Abu Dhabi today for further treatment.

In a country grappling with obesity twice the world's rate, Dr Vayalil said Burjeel Hospital's decision to take in Eman will send out a strong message.

Treating the world's heaviest woman is a big fight against the UAE's swelling obesity problem, said Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, chairman and managing director of VPS Healthcare in Abu Dhabi.

"Our fight is against obesity. Eman is the face of that fight. She is part of the problem," Dr Vayalil told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.

In a country grappling with obesity twice the world's rate - where 66 per cent of UAE men and 60 per cent of women are obese - Dr Vayalil said Burjeel Hospital's decision to take in Eman will send out a strong message.

"Today, it is one Eman. Tomorrow there could be hundreds and thousands of Emans. We have to tackle that problem."

In less than 24 hours, his team of medical experts will be receiving 36-year-old Egyptian Eman Abdul Atti - dubbed the heaviest woman in the world - for treatment at Abu Dhabi's Burjeel Hospital, owned by Dr Vayalil VPS group.

She will be medically evacuated from Mumbai's Saifee Hospital where she was under treatment, and flown down to Abu Dhabi on Thursday evening in a customised chartered flight.

Special arrangements have been made at Burjeel Hospital to receive Eman where she will undergo a holistic treatment in the coming months. "We will do everything that is medically possible to help the patient have a normal life. There is a special room ready for her; we have widened the doors and the room; and a team of specialists will attend to her."

Dr Vayalil said the target is to bring down her weight to below 100kg. This can take a year or a little more than that or even less. We are not in a hurry."

"What I can assure you is we are not going to give up or accept failure that easily. This is an opportunity that we want to catch, hold close and learn from."

"We don't know how many such cases are out there. Eman will help us reach out to more people and create awareness. Here is a lesson for all those who don't exercise, who don't eat healthy or maintain a work-life balance," said Dr Vayalil.

He said despite the controversies surrounding her treatment in India, he decided to accept the case "purely on humanitarian grounds".

"We are taking the risk knowing the complexities of the case. I know it is a sensitive issue that is in the limelight. If something goes wrong, it will put us in a difficult situation. But someone has to take the risk. As healthcare professionals, our ultimate cause is to help the suffering."

When asked about the cost of treatment, Dr Vayalil, who is listed in Forbes magazine's Global Rich list, said: "It is an expensive affair. But in the spirit of the UAE's Year of Giving, we want to give and give more."

From bubbly girl to heaviest woman

Recollecting his first meeting with a 500-kg Eman in her house in Alexandria in Egypt a few months ago, Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, founder and managing director of VPS Healthcare, said it was 'a strange feeling'.

"It was an overwhelming experience even to sit next to her. She could not move or speak. But once I connected with her, it is a bond that did not go away that easily. That is why when her sister called for help, I just could not say no," said Dr Vayalil, who is the youngest recipient of India government's Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award in 2014.

"From a bubbly young girl to just a piece of life on bed, her condition is beyond explanation. She has missed the best part of her life."

"Only she can explain what it feels to be in this condition when the whole world is talking about her. I have seen that pain in her eyes that she cannot communicate."


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