x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Lymphoma patient told he had HIV dies abroad

Ahmed Al Ali was misdiagnosed twice and denied treatment abroad before the Crown Prince of Dubai stepped in.

Ahmed Al Ali, pictured here with his mother and other family members, was misdiagnosed twice and denied treatment abroad before the Crown Prince of Dubai stepped in.
Ahmed Al Ali, pictured here with his mother and other family members, was misdiagnosed twice and denied treatment abroad before the Crown Prince of Dubai stepped in.

DUBAI // Ahmed Al Ali, the Emirati man who was twice misdiagnosed and was denied treatment overseas, has succumbed to his illness at a hospital in Germany.

Mr Al Ali, 30, who was reportedly being treated for lymphoma, died at the weekend and was buried on Sunday.

His mother, Umm Ahmed, was devastated by the news. "There is nothing I can say, other than my heart hurts," she said.

Her sister, Salma Murshid, said they could only pray for Mr Al Ali's soul.

"I won't say anything more than Allah have mercy on him," Ms Murshid said.

Umm Ahmed, who is divorced and receives a Dh4,400 monthly pension through social welfare, said when her son became ill several months ago she took him to a private hospital in Ras Al Khaimah, where he stayed for two days.

Finding treatment there too expensive, she moved him to Dubai Hospital. After a series of tests, doctors said Mr Al Ali was HIV-positive.

He was readmitted to hospital two months later, and Dubai Hospital doctors sent him to Rashid Hospital, where the diagnosis was again HIV.

Two weeks later he was readmitted to hospital and doctors said he had a pulmonary inflammation.

Further analysis revealed Mr Al Ali did not have HIV, but lymphoma, a cancer in the lymphatic cells of the immune system.

The misdiagnosis of her son's condition and wrongly prescribed medication only exacerbated his illness, Umm Ahmed said.

"Sometimes he couldn't see or move," she said. "Other times he wouldn't be able to eat or he'd throw up. It was terrible."

The World Health Organization says there are 70 types of lymphoma. Some forms of the disease have similar symptoms to those that are related to Aids.

According to the US National Cancer Institute, Aids-related lymphoma is present in about 3 per cent of HIV-positive people at the time of the condition's diagnosis.

"The virus HIV can cause swelling of the lymph nodes, and increase the size of the spleen and the liver," an Abu Dhabi oncologist explained. "But all of the above is caused by lymphoma, too.

"In many cases, the immune system is very compromised in a lymphoma patient, to a point were the patient can be severely immuno-suppressed in a similar fashion to an Aids patient."

Doctors recommended Mr Al Ali be sent abroad for treatment, Umm Ahmed said, and she received a report from Rashid Hospital.

The Ministry of Health rejected the report, she said, and told her to take Mr Al Ali to Tawam Hospital in Al Ain.

"They told me I had to do the tests all over again," she said.

The case of Mr Al Ali came to public light when Umm Ahmed called a morning radio show on Ajman's Radio Al Rabea and told the presenter Abdullah bin Khusaif about her son's plight.

"I heard about his death two days ago," Mr bin Khusaif said.

"He was really sick, there was nothing anyone could do - it was Allah's call."

During Umm Ahmed's 30-minute conversation on the air with Mr bin Khusaif, she expressed disappointment with the Ministry of Health.

While she and Mr bin Khusaif were talking, the studio received phone calls from several high-ranking officials, all of whom were volunteering to help pay for Mr Al Ali's care and treatment abroad.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, offered to pay in full for Mr Al Ali's treatment abroad.

Mr bin Khusaif said the radio show helped to get things done faster.

"There are many [generous people] here but the show helped speed things up," he said.

"Usually the Ministry of Health follows specific regulations and such regulations made things slower this time."

aalhaddad@thenational.ae