ABU DHABI // Jarnail Singh feels like a warrior. Ibrahim Rafat Elbo was once permanently exhausted and now walks 10 kilometres a day. Mohammad Hassan is enjoying a whole new life.
All three are beneficiaries of an initiative to provide costly heart surgery free to 100 people in the Middle East who cannot afford it.
Mr Singh, 55, an Indian who lives in Dubai, heard about the scheme from a friend and inquired about surgery to clear a heart blockage. Within three weeks, on February 17, he was operated on.
Now he sends a prayer every night in thanks. With a beaming grin, he pats his chest and announces: “I now feel like a warrior.”
After suffering from heart troubles that often left him short of breath, wheezy and with shooting chest pains since 2005, he feels like a new man.
“I am very grateful to the hospital,” the father of three said. “The facilities, the staff, the treatment – it was all great. It felt like I was in a hotel, not a hospital.
“Now I feel very well indeed. I feel like I have a new heart.”
Mr Elbo, 50, from Abu Dhabi, had a double valve transplant in November and has gone from being permanently exhausted and in pain to walking 10km every day.
“My life has totally changed,” he said. “I was suffering a lot. Now I feel well enough to do anything.”
Mr Hassan, 60, from India, believes he has another 35 years left in him after an operation to clear a heart blockage.
“The hospital staff have been very cooperative through the whole process and I was treated very well. The operation went well and my family is very happy because I have a new life now,” he said.
Awadh Faisal, 50, from Yemen, a mother of seven, heard about the initiative from a cousin in Abu Dhabi.“I am very happy with my open heart operation and I am getting better day by day,” she said.
Awatif Osman, 55, and her mother Saida Hassan, 70, from Sudan, both had surgery to clear heart blockages. “Now everything is OK,” said Awatif’s brother Ossama. “The two most important people in my life are no longer in pain.”
Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi’s largest private hospital, launched the initiative last November in memory of the late Sheikh Zayed.
The hospital covers the cost of surgery, medical assistance and post-surgical care. It has carried out 10 operations so far at a cost of Dh1.3 million, and another 10 are in the pipeline.
Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, the hospital’s founder and managing director, urged others to come forward and benefit.
“It has not been an easy task, logistically, but today I feel happy and humbled by those patients who stand before us,” he said.
“We know there are many more people in the region who need heart surgery but can’t afford it. Our goal is to help as many people as possible. We encourage people who need a heart operation to contact us to register for the programme.”
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