“Look at me," says Waqar smiling, “Can you tell that I have had a major operation and have a prosthetic leg?"
From a small village in Dadu district, Waqar Ahmed Narejo, enthusiastically recounts his story. In 2008, as a mischievous young man of 20 years, he enjoyed the usual pursuits of the young. This included riding motorbikes, hanging out with friends and staying out late at night. He regretfully shares that at that time he recklessly indulged in dangerous driving and motorcycle tricks on the road.
“I had already had about twenty accidents by then," he says remorsefully. Narrating one accident, he said he had injured his foot and knee so badly and it was bleeding so much that he had to get his younger brother to get him a fresh set of clothes to change into before coming home.
One night, Waqar came home late and grazed his leg on something. “I felt such an intense jolt of pain that I couldn't stop myself from yelling out," he recounts. Waqar's father took him to a hospital in Larkana, nearly 60 kilometres away. The doctor discovered that Waqar had osteosarcoma at the distal femur. He was told there was no cure and would have to have the leg amputated. “This was unacceptable to my family," Waqar says, “Someone suggested we go to Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) in Karachi. Since it seemed to be our only recourse, we rented a car and came here."
“I just walked in without an appointment. I was examined by Dr Masood Umer's assistant who immediately admitted me." Dr Umer is an Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and is the Head of the AKUH's Orthopaedic section for the past four years. He is an expert in bone and soft tissue cancer surgeries and treatments.
Dr Umer says, “We told Waqar he could be treated and have a normal life with regular leg movement. We told him this type of cancer has a 60 to 70% survival rate. The treatment included 3 months of chemotherapy, followed by an operation, followed by another 3 months of chemotherapy. We proposed an operation where we could remove the tumour, save his leg, and even promise movement. We ordered an artificial knee joint, a mega prosthesis, tailored to Waqar's measurements, from the UK. The equipment was sent to us, we took out his tumour and put in the new knee joint."
“I was in pain after the operation and I could hear noises in my leg," remembers Waqar, “But Dr Umer reassured me that with physiotherapy I would get better." Waqar smiles, “The doctor was right! I am so happy with this hospital and the doctors here. I am so grateful to them. I had no hope and they have made me stand on my own two feet."
Waqar continues, “Not only did they treat me and give me back my life, but they also helped my family with the financial burden of this extremely expensive treatment. The total treatment cost was Rs. 3.9 million. My parents asked the Patient Welfare department at AKUH for financial assistance. They helped us by providing generously for the treatment. There was no change at all in the behaviour of the hospital staff just because of welfare funds being used on me. I continued to be treated the same way any other patient was. The staff were compassionate, friendly and respectful."
Waqar completed his education after receiving two years of treatment at AKUH and is now working at a private school as a teacher and coordinator. He got married a few years ago and now has a little daughter as well.
“The doctors and all medical staff at AKUH treat you as if you were a member of their own family. I am so grateful to God that I can have a normal life and that is all thanks to AKUH's doctors, the financial assistance I received for my treatment and the world-class level of care that I was given," concludes Waqar happily.