DUBAI // Habiba al Tawqi was diagnosed with diabetes when she was just two. As a result, she later underwent a double kidney transplant and had both her feet amputated. Ms Tawqi, 27, an Omani who was chosen as the Arab Children's Health Congress Ambassador 2007, has written a book about her experiences to raise awareness and understanding about the disease. She visits the UAE frequently and was in Dubai last week to launch her book, Diamond Life, which was sponsored by Index Holding.
The autobiography tells of her struggles as a youngster, and growing up feeling "different" to other children. "It was great to write, but hard," she said. "As a child you do not think about how hard it is to be on dialysis or to have a kidney transplant, but I think if it happened now I would be much more scared." Diabetes had such a severe impact on her because of the lack of knowledge about the disease in her home country.
"The doctors were not really saying what needed to be done, or what shouldn't be done," she said. "At the time they were not sure of how to deal with diabetes so I was getting different messages from different doctors." Ms Tawqi's kidneys failed in 1999, when she was just 18. She spent two years on dialysis, travelling to the hospital three times a week. Her family eventually helped her travel to Pakistan for a double kidney transplant.
In 2004 she suffered what is known as diabetic foot, where a patient loses feeling in the limb, which can be easily blighted by ulcers. The condition got so bad, both her feet were amputated and replaced with prosthetics. During her year as ambassador, she toured the Middle East, trying to drive home a message the importance of keeping children healthy. "It was great but I did not achieve everything I wanted to, it would have been better if I could have had more time," she said.
"I think we need to be teaching children about diabetes, not just adults. It is the child who needs to know what is happening to them, it is not easy at times." firstname.lastname@example.org