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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

UAE Helping Hands: emergency surgery leaves uninsured woman with mountain of debt

A Sri Lankan woman who earns just Dh800 a month must pay a hospital Dh43,000 for emergency brain surgery

Sarangi Mendis earns Dh800 a month and had to have brain surgery in July. She is uninsured and now owes the hospital Dh43,000. Satish Kumar / The National
Sarangi Mendis earns Dh800 a month and had to have brain surgery in July. She is uninsured and now owes the hospital Dh43,000. Satish Kumar / The National

Sarangi Mendis moved to Dubai from Sri Lanka two years ago for the same reasons most expatriates do: in search of a better life.

The thirty-eight-year-old works for a cleaning company, earning Dh800 a month but sends most of her wages home to support her mother.

“Accommodation is free so I can send money back home to help my mother.”

Ms Mendis’s mother suffers from paralysis and has no support.

“We are all very poor which is why I came here to work for a cleaning company.

Life is hard,” she said, simply.

In July, a blinding headache rendered Ms Mendis unable to work for a week. “I had a headache for five days. I couldn't sleep or open my eyes.”

After visiting a doctor, she was told she had two blocked nerves in her brain and was immediately admitted into the Intensive Care Unit for surgery.

The operation cost Ms Mendis Dh52,000. Uninsured, she could not afford to pay her hospital bills.

“They kept me in the hospital for four to five days after the operation. I wasn't’ allowed to leave until I paid the money,” she said.

Some of her friends came to Ms Mendis’ aid with one of them paying Dh13,000 and registering their credit card with the hospital as a guarantee.

Today, Ms Mendis owes the hospital Dh43,000.

“They told me that I can pay them Dh10,000 every three months,” she said. Her next instalment is due on Wednesday.

“I don’t have this money. How can I when my salary is only Dh800?”

Ms Mendis’ headaches have returned but she said she cannot afford to see a doctor again.

“I am so stressed. I have asked every charity and every one for help. What will happen to me now if I can't pay? Please help me,” she said.

Hisham Al Zahrani, manager of Zakat and Social Services at Dar Al Ber, made a plea to the public on behalf of Ms Mendis.

“Ms Mendis works hard. She comes from a very poor family and cannot afford to pay her hospital bills. She needs your help to pay it off,” he said.

salnuwais@thenational.ae