Watch: Transformation of former world's heaviest woman 10 weeks after Abu Dhabi arrival
Once known as the heaviest woman in the world, the smile on the face of Eman Abd el Aty on her first public appearance since arriving in Abu Dhabi ten weeks ago was more striking than the weight she has lost.
At just 36, her life was destined to be cut short due to a rare childhood thyroid condition that had seen her weight balloon close to 500kg.
Her desperate family appealed for help, and flew her to Mumbai from Cairo for extensive bariatric surgery to shed more than 300kg.
Most of that weight has been cut away, but doctors in India were unable to continue her treatment and rehabilitation.
An operation led by VPS Healthcare to transport Eman to Abu Dhabi in May has given her fresh hope.
Specialist doctors at Burjeel Hospital have helped Eman undergo an incredible transformation.
Once bedridden and unable to support herself, Eman can now sit up in bed and her speech is returning for the first time since suffering a stroke three years ago.
“Eman’s transformation has been incredible,” said Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, chairman and managing director of the VPS healthcare team.
“The ability for her to now communicate with her family has been overwhelming for them. Her mother and niece visited her for two weeks and didn’t recognise her at first.”
On arrival in Abu Dhabi, doctors diagnosed a number of serious medical conditions.
Eman was severely depressed, refusing to communicate with those around her. She had an inability to speak or pronounce sentences or words.
Limited to crawling around her home in Alexandria, her mobility was further restricted after a stroke, losing the use of her legs and arms.
Severe bedsores, a fever and urinary tract infection made her life a misery, only worsened by acute kidney failure and severe dehydration.
Eman had been fed through a stomach tube, but the food delivered was often making her sick as it reacted with her medical conditions.
Morbidly obese, Eman suffered intermittent fits and would lose consciousness – impacting on her general mental health and willingness to recover.
Doctors have overseen a remarkable turnaround from that desperate condition.
It is a huge leap forward according to Dr Anita das Gupta, a clinical dietician, who carefully manages her daily calories intake to correspond with her weight loss.
“We calculate everything she needs according to her body weight, and now gets a low calorie balanced diet.
“When she was able to swallow, we could provide her a thick liquid with all of the vitamins and minerals required.”
Because of the extensive stomach surgery Eman had endured, she has been fed gradually to stop her body rejecting food.
Dr Gupta’s team also discovered she was allergic to certain foods, so they have had to tread carefully when introducing new meals.
“We based her diet according to her tolerance and the surgery she has had,” added Dr Gupta.
“She currently has four meals a day, and has soft cooked food that is chopped up. She understands the taste and smell of food again, she is enjoying it and can feed herself.”
Her family, scarred by the media circus that followed her from Mumbai, have restricted public interviews, fed up with the negative publicity surrounding the case and the stigma of Eman being the world’s heaviest woman.
During her time in Abu Dhabi, cameras have been banned for staff entering her ward and information on her progress tightly controlled.
Doctors won’t reveal exactly how much weight she has lost, or how many daily calories she now consumes. They insist she is making startling progress.
Reshma raj Anoop, a hospital speech therapist, said Eman was difficult to engage with at first.
“Eman could only murmur, and could not control the muscles used for speech so it was frustrating for her.
“Since her speech therapy, she can now say her name and where she is from.
“Communication is so import ant for her recovery, especially for her family.”
They are training her with sounds, and are seeing improvements daily. Soon she will be able to have a conversation, they hope.
If her progress continues, doctors hope she could be home in Alexandria within 12 months.
First, Eman faces further liposuction and surgery to remove excess skin, with surgery beginning in August and likely to take up to four months to complete.
Physios set a three-month goal of Eman being able to sit up and feed herself with her right hand. She has already achieved that goal.
“When I first saw Eman, she had only slight movement, so we have worked on that,” said Praveen Edogali, physiotherapist at Burjeel Hospital.
“It is a trial and error process, but Eman is getting stronger every day with thirty minute programmes at a time.”