Babar smiles at the one-year-old baby crawling and babbling on the floor near him, and says “Can you imagine this mischievous little boy being so sick that he would cry all day and night long?”
“Two months after Abdul Rehman was born, he started getting a chest infection. We thought it was the usual way babies get sick sometimes. We took him to a neighbourhood clinic and got some medicines for him,” narrates Abdul Rehman’s father Mohammad Babar Bhatti.
“Abdul Rehman would cry all night. He was in constant pain and had a bad cough all the time. We were so concerned and took him to multiple doctors in different hospitals for months. We were going from one doctor to another who would keep prescribing medicines which wouldn’t improve Abdul Rehman’s health,” Babar continues.
Babar was eventually told to get an echocardiogram for Abdul Rehman as one of the doctors suspected the baby had a hole in his heart. This was confirmed from the test results. “We were terrified when we heard the news. Our other two children had no such problems. Doctors told me to just continue giving Abdul Rehman medicines as they could not operate on such a tiny baby,” says Babar.
Babar’s eyes well up as he speaks, “I can’t tell you what pain my tiny baby was in. The medicines were not helping at all. He would cry all the time. His body would tense up from the pain. I can’t describe what it feels like when you see your child going through such torture.”
By the time Abdul Rehman was 6 months old and the situation had not improved, Babar’s friend suggested that he visits the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH). Babar met with Dr Waris Ahmad, a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Dr Shazia Mohsin, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health who is a paediatric cardiologist. They confirmed the baby had a hole in his heart and would need emergency surgery. “When they told me the treatment cost was Rs. 850,000, I knew I would not be able to afford it as my salary was only Rs. 22,000,” says Babar, “So we just took Abdul Rehman home, but then he got really sick and we had to have him admitted to the ICU of another hospital.”
Dr Shazia reached out to Babar on her own accord. “Dr Shazia asked me why I wasn’t getting the surgery done at AKUH and I told her I can’t afford it. She told me to just come to the hospital and she would get the finances sorted out,” states Babar. He continues, “She sent me to the Patient Welfare Department at AKUH where they asked for documents showing my financial situation. Usually, the Patient Welfare covers treatment costs partially. When they assessed that I really had no other alternative, they covered almost the entire treatment cost. I only had to arrange Rs. 100,000 out of the 850,000.”
“For me, Dr Shazia is like an angel. She treated us like family. She was like my mother or sister. I cannot appreciate enough the medical expertise and emotional support she provided. Aga Khan University Hospital was the only place we came to where they said yes we can operate on your baby and we can fix the problem. No other hospital or doctor said this to comfort us. I wasted so much time going between doctors and hospitals where they treated us heartlessly and rudely,” says Babar.
Babar describes AKUH as something out of this world. “The hospital is so organised; the doctors and medical staff are kind and polite and the Welfare Department will go out of the way to help even financially disadvantaged people like me,” he says.
Abdul Rehman looks up mid-crawl and grins cheekily at his teary-eyed father, bringing an instant smile to Babar’s face. “I cannot thank AKUH enough for saving my little boy and removing all the pain and suffering from him,” beams Babar.
Abdul Rehman’s treatment was made possible with the generous support received from Faysal Bank Limited.