Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 June 2019

Scar-free Abu Dhabi surgery puts driver on road to recovery

Abdul Hakim had the support of surgeons as well as an employer who describes him as a 'son' and a 'friend'

Abdul Hakim's strong relationship with his employer, Marzouq Al Hajerii, right, was a huge help during his battle with mouth cancer. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Abdul Hakim's strong relationship with his employer, Marzouq Al Hajerii, right, was a huge help during his battle with mouth cancer. Chris Whiteoak / The National

A grateful driver struck down with mouth cancer has been put on the road to recovery thanks to innovative scar-free surgery – and support of his caring employer.

Bangladesh's Abdul Hakim, 34, was left with a gaping hole in the roof of his mouth after receiving chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment in his home country.

Medics at Mafraq Hospital, in Abu Dhabi, took an alternative route when deciding how to fix the problem.

Rather than following the traditional path of using skin from his forearm for tissue replacement surgery, they took skin from a different part of the arm.

“We wanted to try something different so he wouldn’t get any scars. The blood vessels in the upper arm are much smaller and it meant we could close the arm afterwards,” said Dr Colin Maciver.

“We also joined it together inside the mouth instead of doing a tunnel through the cheek.”

Mr Hakim has no visible scars from the reconstructive surgery in May, which also allowed him to return to work several days ahead of schedule.

Abdul Hakim is on the road to recovery​​​​​​ with help from Marzouq Al Hajerii, pictured with two of his children. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Abdul Hakim is on the road to recovery​​​​​​ with help from Marzouq Al Hajerii, pictured with two of his children. Chris Whiteoak / The National

After eight days in hospital – the average stay for such a procedure is two weeks – he was able to drink and eat normally and get back in the driving seat.

Marzouq Al Hajerii, 37, who has employed Mr Hakim as his driver for more than a decade, was there at every step of the journey.

He remained by Mr Hakim's side during and after the surgery, before welcoming him back to work.

“He does not just work for me; he is my brother, my son and my friend,” Mr Hajerii said.

Mr Al Hajerii said he found out about Mr Hakim's tumour in 2017.

“We were all devastated. He is family. I hired him when he was in his early twenties. We both grew up together. I started my own family. I helped him get married and although we are almost the same age, I consider him a son,” the father of three said.

When Mr Hakim received the cancer diagnosis, Mr Al Hajerii said he noticed that his driver became severely depressed.

AA strong believer that a person’s psychological state is crucial to their recovery, he asked what he could do to lift his spirits.

“I asked him what I could do and he said that all he wanted was to go back home to see his daughter. Medications help but the most important factor to recover from any disease is a person’s state of mind.

“It was important for me not to make him feel different – that he is sick and can’t be an active part of society any more.”

Mr Al Hajerii arranged for his driver’s return and for him to receive treatment in Bangladesh, where he remained for six months.

Mr Hakim is delighted to be feeling back to his best.

“I don’t feel sick. The cancer is gone, thank God. I am fine and I asked to go back to work,” he said.

“I was scared in the beginning but now I am fine. There is no pain and I can swallow and eat normally.”

Updated: June 3, 2019 05:26 PM

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