UAE: Expat risks losing a foot to gangrene, after losing husband and job

Saman Haziq /Dubai Filed on July 17, 2021

Supplied photo

Supplied photo

It is the unbearable pain that Helen has to live with since she has no medical insurance.

After years of struggle with depression, debt, and trying to put her life on track after the sudden death of her spouse in 2015, Sharjah resident Priscilla Helen, 58, was hoping that the worse was over.

However, she was wrong. The Indian expat, who got a new lease of life after availing of the UAE amnesty in 2018, is now face-to-face with a serious medical situation that is literally making her numb with fear.

Helen, who is suffering from uncontrolled diabetes mellites, had contracted gangrene – a type of tissue death due to lack of blood supply - that led to the amputation of two of her toes within the span of a month. Without enough funds to get the gangrene surgically removed from the rest of her foot, she is now on the verge of losing her foot to the disease.

“It started with a small blister behind my toe but since I don’t have medical insurance and my 24 year old son is also out of job for one and a half year, I treated my wound by home remedies but they began to turn black and by the time I showed it to a private nursing home, it was too late and I had to go through two amputations in a span of a month," Helen told Khaleej Times.

Apart from being left partially handicapped due to the toe amputations and aggressive gangrene in her foot, it is the unbearable pain that Helen has to live with since she has no medical insurance and is only living on a heavy dosage of Panadol.

“I do manage to limp and walk but after walking even a few steps, the pain in my foot is unbearable. My son has to close all doors and windows of the house because I scream with pain,” she said while breaking down over the phone as she narrated her condition.

It all started, Helen said, when she was given incorrect medicines for her diabetes by a private doctor that led to a severe imbalance of sugar levels, and from being a highly diabetic patient, her sugar levels suddenly plummeted to dangerously low levels.

“I and my son have been suffering since my husband passed away due to sudden cardiac arrest in 2015 and his company refused to pay us any of his end of service benefits. We were left in a state of penury as my son was in Grade 12 then and I also did not have a job but thanks to the UAE’s amnesty programme that we got a visa extension and my son then picked up a job somewhere for Dh3,000, barely enough to pay off our rent and utility bills. However, he was rendered jobless with the advent of Covid,” she added.

Helen said that although her son goes out every day to hunt for jobs, he ensures he takes care of the house and also looks after her.

“It pains me to see my son take my responsibility even when he himself is struggling but I am blessed to have a son like this who cooks, cleans and takes care of me without getting frustrated. In fact, he even cleans my wound and dresses it regularly as I scream in pain. I am blessed to have such an obedient son. He is my only support.”

She has two days left

Since a family friend doctor referred Helen to a reputed doctor in Sharjah – Dr Rohit Kumar, who waived off all consultation charges, she was able to know what the next course of action she should take in order to save her foot.

Elaborating on her case, Dr Kumar told Khaleej Times: “ Time is of essence here. Priscilla urgently needs to get multiple surgeries to clean up the wound and remove the dead tissues in order to save the rest of her foot from being affected by gangrene. It will take around one to three months after these surgeries for her to recover. Right now she is in sepsis and shock and needs urgent treatment.”

Helen, who has been admitted to a private hospital as an emergency case, given her deteriorating condition, needs Dh150,000 to fund her complete treatment. She has only two days to undergo the procedure before the gangrene spreads to the rest of her leg.

Saman Haziq

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