ABU DHABI // The parents of a boy who was left paralysed, deaf and blind after he woke up during open-heart surgery have been granted the right to have their case investigated by an expert medical committee.
Ismail Ghuloum, who is now almost 2, was undergoing what was described in the Administrative Court as routine surgery to correct a congenital heart defect at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), managed by Cleveland Clinic, in October.
The surgery was supposed to close a hole between the two arteries of his heart, but Ismail woke up in the middle of the operation and the subsequent increase in his heart rate caused the stitches on his heart to tear open. This led to a number of complications that required him to undergo a further four surgeries over the following 24 hours. After one of the surgeries, his heart stopped for 50 minutes.
By the end of the fourth surgery, Ismail was left completely paralysed and blind. He has recently emerged from a coma, but his condition has worsened and he has lost the ability to speak or hear.
Ismail's parents filed a lawsuit against SKMC, Cleveland Clinic, the consultant heart surgeon from the clinic who was involved in the surgery, and the anaesthetist.
The surgery, called patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), "is a simple surgery not considered high risk at all", according to Dr Mohammed-Khair Mahmoud, a specialist in general and laparoscopic surgery.
He added: "The complication the boy went through is exceptional. Nine out of every 1000 are born with this defect and the treatment is not necessarily surgery - it could close again naturally. Most children with PDA can live healthy, normal lives after the treatment, whether through surgery or consultancy."
In a ruling last Wednesday the Administrative Court agreed with their submission that the case should be referred to a medical committee tasked with investigating medical errors.
The committee, which consists of 13 consultant doctors from various medical institutions, including the Ministry of Health, will conduct its own examinations and investigations to decide who is responsible for the error and issue a verdict accordingly. It is unclear when their investigation will be complete.
Ismail's family welcomed the court's verdict and said they would accept the findings of the committee.
"I'm not a doctor and I don't know who's fault it was," said Ismail's father, Mohammed. "We filed a lawsuit to get the medical committee to look at the case and if anyone was at fault they should pay for their mistake. If not we accept it as destiny."
Although Ismail has emerged from a coma, he is still barely able to move. He is now in rehabilitation in Germany with his parents. His father even described him as "living normally now", though he must still be fed through a tube in his stomach.
"We are emotionally very tired we have reached all phases of depression," said Mr Ghuloum yesterday. "We are ready to stay with him forever here but we want to see real improvement, at the moment it is minimal."
He said his wife, Umm Ismail, suffers psychological problems stemming from Ismail's tragedy.
"Ismail came after seven years of trying to get pregnant," said Mr Ghuloum. "We have 50 photo albums of him since day one. We recorded every single move from when he was born until he fell sick."
He said the couple were too traumatised by the tragedy to celebrate the birth of their second son, Omar, who was delivered two months after Ismail's operation.
"From the pain we felt for Ismail, we did not want to be hurt by memories, we didn't take any photos of him."
Speaking of his hopes for the child's recovery, Mr Ghuloum said simply: "Our hope is in Allah."