A Telephone Call That Saved My Life

Usman, in his early 20’s, was engaged and counting days to his wedding, when suddenly he started to experience bouts of uncontrollable vomiting. Dismissing it as an infection at first, Usman and his family got worried when the vomiting continued for the next 3 weeks. Apart from the continuous episodes of throwing up, Usman also had a recent history of weight loss without an identifiable cause. 

Usman lives in Abbottabad and sought help in his hometown; but the local doctors were unsuccessful in diagnosing the cause of the repeated vomiting. His parents then decided to reach out to The Aga Khan University Hospital for medical assistance. 

Usman’s family called The Aga Khan University Hospital, Main Campus, Karachi, on the highly responsive General Surgery (GS) Hotline. The Gastrointestinal (GI) and Surgery Service Line​ provides this phone number to patients on their discharge summary. The discharge summary is a document letter that summarizes a patient’s health condition and treatment given during their stay at the hospital, as well as follow-up care information, which is explained to the patient at their time of leaving the hospital.  The primary objective of this number is to facilitate the discharged patient in seeking assistance regarding post-operative care or any complications that may arise once they are at home. 

Commenting on the idea behind the GS Hotline, Rozina Khimani, Nurse Manager for the GI and Surgery Service Line said,

“It is just like a life line for our patient’s well being at home”.

Usman’s parents got the GS Hotline number from a patient who had been previously admitted to and treated by the GI and Surgery Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital. Their call was received by a highly qualified clinical staff member who asked in detail what the medical concern was. Upon receiving the information, they assessed the emergency of the situation and advised Usman’s parents to come down to Karachi for treatment, as a medical diagnosis was difficult to make over the phone. The staff booked an appointment for Usman and pre-registered a room for him in the ward.  

Upon Usman’s arrival to The Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi, the GI and Surgery Service Line observed professional medical protocol in receiving him. However, immediately upon reaching the surgical unit, Usman collapsed and became unconscious.

The GI and Surgery nursing staff instantly initiated CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) that was followed by CPI (crisis prevention intervention), which is a worldwide standard procedure to manage a crisis. Usman was then admitted to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), where preparations for an emergency laparotomy (incision into the abdomen) were made. During the surgery, the operating doctor, Dr. Hasnain Zafar (Associate Professor, General Surgery and the Service Line Chief for the GI and Surgery Service Line) diagnosed an intestinal blockage in Usman’s digestive system that was causing the uncontrollable episodes of vomiting. The blockage was due to an abnormality in his intestinal anatomy. The growth causing the blockage was surgically removed and a temporary stoma (hole in the abdomen to divert faeces out of the body) was formed. 

After his emergency surgery, Usman needed to stay at the hospital for a few weeks, during which time, he recovered and gradually regained his health. Today, Usman is back at home and has resumed preparations for his big day. His fiancée has shown commendable support throughout this ordeal, which has reinstated his confidence in making the right call about choosing her to be his life partner.

Talking about how the GS Hotline helped save his life by giving him access to some of the best doctors in the country and  helping  close the communication gap, Usman said,

“My family and I were at the brink of losing hope when we had called the GS Hotline. The professional receiving the call was not only gentle but also knew exactly how to guide a confused patient like me. It was their encouragement and their kind and professional attitude that motivated me to travel so far for treatment. It was literally a phone call that saved my life”.​​