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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Family hope for recovery of Emirati 7-year-old left quadriplegic by hit-and-run

Meznah Basaloum could go back to school with her friends in September in her specially adapted wheelchair 

Meznah Basaloum painting a flower with Patricia Smith, a physiotherapist at Amana Healthcare. Reem Mohammed / The National
Meznah Basaloum painting a flower with Patricia Smith, a physiotherapist at Amana Healthcare. Reem Mohammed / The National

The parents of 7-year-old Meznah Basaloum have lived through any family's worst nightmare.

In August 2016, the young Emirati was walking with her older cousin to feed her pet dove when a speeding car lost control and ploughed into her, leaving her crumpled body in the road before driving off.

She is lucky to be alive: left in a coma for four weeks, Meznah, who is a twin and one of five children, suffered severe bleeding to her brain and lungs, fractured hips and spinal cord damage that has left her paralysed from the neck down.

She has a host of other related health problems, and has been fitted with a pacemaker, but the remarkable youngster is beginning to show signs of recovery.

After 10 months of care in Germany, Meznah has returned home to Abu Dhabi to continue therapy at Amana Healthcare.

A team of nurses there provide daily physiotherapy and speech therapy, and a wheelchair activated by her mouth is giving back her independence.

It has been a long road, but nurses are confident she will be able to start school in September.

“When she came here, Meznah didn’t have a wheelchair — now she is getting more independent, and can stand in her chair at the same eye level as her twin sister,” said Patricia Smith, a physiotherapist from Ireland at Amana Healthcare.

“Her mum comes in every day, but she is spending more time at home, which is the ultimate goal. Her parents want to get her back home by August so she can prepare for school.

“She has recovered so well and will start in a mainstream school in September, in the same year as her younger sister.

“It is quite rare to see someone so young recover so well and begin to function like a typically developing young girl.”

Meznah started to speak again in Germany after about three months of treatment.

She remained in Germany as doctors said not much could be done, and therapy would not suffice.

Meznah’s parents then heard about Amana Healthcare, did their research and came back to Abu Dhabi to continue her rehabilitation, surrounded by family and friends.

Meznah is now part of the Early Intervention Program — an educational outlet for children at Amana Healthcare where they are exposed to educational activities and content, using the latest technology.

Spasticity in her muscles requires daily physiotherapy to prevent pain, contractions, or loss of mobility that would stop her being able to operate her wheelchair.

A special positioning system in her bed ensures she is kept comfortable while lying down and she can operate a wheelchair with her chin or lips by pushing a joystick.

“Meznah presents as a quadriplegic, with no active movement in all four limbs,” said Dr Walid Rozik, a specialist in general pediatrics, practicing at Amana Healthcare.

“She does have active movement in her neck allowing her to rotate her head from side to side once it is supported from behind, so she uses a powered wheelchair that enables her to control the chair independently using head or chin controls.”

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Amana Healthcare’s goal is to improve her quality of life, wean her off the ventilator and bring her home.

Once home, she will be supported by home care services from Amana Healthcare, where therapists and nurses will visit Meznah’s house and conduct activities with the support of her family.

Meznah is also ventilated but she can tolerate periods of time off the ventilator breathing by herself.

Due to her lack of schooling since her accident, she is currently behind with her literacy skills, but is making good progress.

It has been an extremely challenging time for her family, who did not want to talk about her progress.

Meznah’s situation was a huge shock to them all. Initially devastated, but with consultation and sufficient support from the Amana Healthcare team, the family’s outlook has changed altogether to more positive and hopeful.

“Meznah is brilliant, her speech is very good when you consider the damage to her brain,” said Ms Smith.

“She has learnt English very quickly and is now almost fluent, mainly because most of her care staff speak English.

“She is very clever.

“There is very little we can do with a spinal cord injury, so we are trying to make her as independent as possible and give her the best quality of life we can.”

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