Indian expat on ventilator repatriated home to Kerala in air ambulance

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai Filed on August 30, 2021
Social workers Naseer Vatanapally and Kareem Valapad with Moideenkutty Cheruvakkath. Photo: Supplied

Hospital waives off hospital bills amounting to more than Dh370,000

A 55-year-old paralysed blue-collar worker, who has been on a mechanical ventilator in the ICU for over 100 days, was finally repatriated to his hometown in Kerala, India, late Sunday night.

Moideenkutty Cheruvakkath, a Malappuram native, was flown to Calicut International Airport in a stretcher seat onboard an Air India flight with a medical team consisting of a doctor and a nurse. According to Naseer Vatanapally, the social worker assisting Cheruvakkath, the Consulate General of India in Dubai fully supported the financial costs of his repatriation.

Furthermore, since Cheruvakkath did not have medical insurance, he had raked up more than Dh570,000 in hospital bills at Aster Mankhool Hospital, where he received treatment. “A charity organisation donated nearly Dh200,000 towards the bill, and the hospital waived off the remaining,” Dr Sherbaz Bichu, CEO of Aster Hospitals and Clinics, UAE, told Khaleej Times.

“Emergency medical services took him to a private clinic as he suffered severe hand pain, and when he underwent tests, doctors found that he has a variation in his heartbeat. He was referred to a cardiologist at the clinic, and since he couldn’t afford to pay for the treatment, they asked him to travel home and undergo further treatment.”

Cheruvakkath was excited to fly home and meet his family. “Unfortunately, his condition worsened while he was getting his PCR test done,” added Dr Sherbaz. He was applying for a pre-travel Covid-19 test at a testing centre when he suffered a life-threatening heart complication nearly four months ago.

“He was rushed to Aster Hospital by the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) team, and a life-saving procedure was performed by specialist interventional cardiologist Dr Naveed Ahmed,” he added.

Cheruvakkath stayed in the ICU for 120 days until he recovered enough to fly back home and reunite with his family. “Although he did not have medical insurance, the treatment continued in the best interest of saving and sustaining life. Aster Hospital also supported the patient financially, and I feel blessed and accomplished to see him reaching his home safely,” added Dr Sherbaz.

“Cheruvakkath worked as a watchman and cleaner in a private home in Dubai. He was his family’s sole breadwinner. He lived and worked in the UAE for 26 years. He is in a completely vegetative state needing palliative care at the moment,” said Vatanapally. Upon landing in Kerala, he was transferred to the EMS Memorial Co-operative Hospital in Perinthalmanna for further care.

Vatanapally said, “Cheruvakkath's cousin Habib reached out to me some time ago. He has been working in his current place of employment for 20 years. The incident took place four months ago, and we have wanted to send him back for that long. However, due to the flight suspensions, we could not send a medical team with him.”

He added, “His family is in dire straits. He has two children, and both are studying. The palliative care costs Dh700 per day. I'm not sure how they are going to afford that.”


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Vatanapally said the Consulate General of India in Dubai was extremely accommodating of Cheruvakkath’s needs. “A doctor and a nurse accompanied him. The Consulate fully funded their return ticket, flight and medical costs, and air repatriation costs. They have gone out of their way to assist this family.”

Tadu Mamu, Consul, Press, Information and Culture (PIC) and Labour at the Consulate said, “We provided the escort tickets and arranged the logistical charges, including the PCR tests of these travelling. I must thank Aster for waiving off the hospital bills. The outstanding amount was pretty big. We drew the funds from the Indian Community Welfare Fund.”


Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for over ten years. For Khaleej Times, she covers NRI affairs, civil aviation, and immigration issues among other things. She completed her BA in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008 and is currently pursuing her MA in Leadership and Innovation in Contemporary Media at the American University in Dubai. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves food, and is mom to an over-enthusiastic Labrador retriever. Tweet at her @shootsprintrite.

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