AL AIN // The father of a 16-year-old boy who suffered a broken neck in a car accident nearly two weeks ago, had virtually accepted that his son may never walk again.
But after undergoing a surgical procedure at Tawam Hospital just days after the accident, the Emirati boy, Abdullah al Shamsi, was up on his feet the following day.
The jovial father, Mubarak al Shamsi, had considered sending his son abroad for the delicate surgery, but when he learnt that Dr Amr el Shawarby had practised medicine in Germany, he put his trust and his son's future in the doctor's hands.
Abdullah was sitting next to the family driver on December 4 when a pedestrian stepped off the kerb directly in front of the car. Taking evasive action to prevent what may well have been a fatality, the driver lost control and slammed into the kerb, sending the car flipping end over end.
"I received the call that my son had been involved in a serious accident," Mr al Shamsi said. "I rushed to Al Ain Hospital where I was told my son's neck had been broken. I immediately began making plans to send Abdullah to Europe for emergency surgery but in the meantime had him admitted to Tawam Hospital. That's where I was met by Dr Amr el Shawarby."
From the age of 11, Dr el Shawarby had been at his father's side in the operating theatre. His father, Dr Abdulhamid el Shawarby, was the physician who brought neurosurgery to Egypt in the 1950s and 1960s.
At the age of 43, Dr Amr el Shawarby is the chief of neurosurgery at Tawam Hospital. Considered among the best in the region and, arguably, the world, he has developed a number of surgical tools and techniques bringing European medical expertise to the UAE. Favoured by the most prominent families, he has changed the lives of thousands since joining Tawam Hospital in 2006.
"After meeting Dr el Shawarby, I set aside the idea of sending my son to Europe," young Abdullah's father said. "Dr el Shawarby explained in detail what he would do and I was satisfied. I was confident that with his experience and expertise, especially in Germany, that I could trust him with my son's well-being and future."
Abdullah had fractured numerous bones in his neck in the Saturday afternoon crash. On Tuesday, Dr el Shawarby operated on him. By Wednesday, an incredulous Abdullah was walking, albeit nervously.
"You are perfectly fine," Dr el Shawarby said, encouraging him. "Have confidence and don't be so worried. In a couple of days you will be joining your friends for a stroll around Bawadi Mall."
Abdullah managed a nervous smile, understandable considering the potentially debilitating injury he had suffered. But he was standing and walking unassisted, save for the neck brace he had on. His father said his quick recovery was akin to a miracle.
Sultan al Shamsi, Abdullah's uncle said: "We were told he had broken his neck and we thought he would be paralysed. Immediately I started thinking that any semblance of a normal future for him was over."
Reflecting on the accident, Mr Sultan al Shamsi said: "It's strange how someone's life can change in a second. Abdullah had left the house safe and sound and a few minutes later he was lying motionless in an overturned car with a broken neck through no fault of his own. The entire family is grateful to God that he survived and that he guided us to Dr Amr. Watching Abdullah walking now is something we thought would possibly come after months of physiotherapy."
Dr Joseph Manna, the chief of the emergency department at Tawam Hospital, is familiar with Dr el Shawarby's work and noted that within the medical community he is known for his advanced techniques that enable those who suffer severe spine and neck injuries to become mobile again.
"He's one of the best in spinal surgery, I would trust him with my own family," Dr Manna said. "We are very lucky to have him here at Tawam. There have been a few similar cases where people suffered a broken neck and back, and Dr el Shawarby had them up on their feet in no time. With him on the Tawam team, the hospital is even better equipped to handle trauma cases."
A middle-aged Australian man, who asked that he not be named because his case is still being reviewed by his insurance company, also has good reason to be grateful to Dr el Shawarby.
"I was involved in a rollover accident," he said. "When I came to, I knew that something was very wrong with my neck as I couldn't lift my head up and felt a strange crunching in my neck. It scared me. I was helicoptered to Tawam Hospital and there I was put in traction with screws drilled into my head to prevent me from moving my neck.
"I worried that I may never be the same again. But after going under the knife with Dr el Shawarby, I was able to walk the next day and am now relatively pain free.
"I am extraordinarily grateful to him."