Issa lives on ... thanks to Dubai Hospital
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Lying on his side on a bed at Dubai Hospital, Issa Mohammed smiles awkwardly upon seeing visitors, one of the rare occasion in 24 years — maybe unsure of how to react.
A little while later, the smile turns into a grin revealing uneven teeth. For a visitor, the shine in his eye indicates recognition but his caregivers say the smile is only a reflex action.
He is suffering from a condition known as microcephaly, in layman’s terms, a child is born with an underdeveloped brain due to which the size of the head also remains small. The poor brain development causes problems with the cognitive abilities and neurological functions hampering day-to-day movements.
Abandoned as a baby when he was two months old in 1988, the now 24, Issa was brought to Dubai Hospital along with a couple of other babies. Due to his poor health and male gender, no family approached the hospital’s social services for adoption.
In-charge nurse at the hospital’s paediatric unit, Grace Kutty Thomas, who had been in the hospital for seven years when Issa was brought in said: “We have been caring for him since he was a baby.”
Since there was no personal detail available for Issa, no one knew his nationality or who his parents were. Even his name was given to him by the hospital staff, she said.
Issa has never eaten any solid foods in his life and is fed a high-protein and high calorie diet through his nasal gastric tube. He has also never left the hospital building.
“He is a very social person and loves visitors,” explained Grace adding that watching cartoons and listening to Arabic music was his favourite pastime.
Issa’s mental retardation has also affected him physically. Both his lower and upper limbs have severe contracture (stiffness) which means he can move around only with the help of a custom-made chair operated by his caretakers.
According to Dr Hassan Ali Mundi, Consultant Paediatrician at the hospital, Issa will never recover. “Children like this are born this way and there is no cure for his condition,” said the doctor.
Aside from his disabilities, Issa also has bronchial asthma, eczema and until a few years ago he suffered from convulsions.
“We did start with physiotherapy for Issa but due to the severe stiffness, his bones have become fragile and could break,” he said.
The duration of his life depends on the care he is given, said Dr Mundi and for all these years, Issa has not developed bed sores despite being constantly bed-ridden – thanks to the round-the-clock care by the hospital’s medical staff.