A weighty cause

Weighty cause Loading

I have been following up the media hype on the Egyptian woman called Eman Ahmed. The headlights of her story, till date, that I have gathered from media reports are as follows:

  • At 500kg, she was billed as the fattest woman on earth.
  • She was born in 1980, so that makes her about 37 years old.
  • She has never walked for the past 25 years (which means pretty much most of her life!)
  • Three years ago, she had a stroke, after which her right side is paralyzed.
  • She cannot speak coherently, again because of the stroke, mumbles in Arabic, which seems to be the only language she knows.
  • She was airlifted to Saifee hospital in Mumbai from Alexandria a couple of months ago for a weight reduction surgery, after which her weight reduced to 252 kgs.
  • Her view of the world for most of her life has been in the prone position from her bed.
  • Her entire surgery and hospitalization expenses have been borne by the hospital.
  • I don’t know who paid for her flight because a cargo aircraft had to be modified to be able to accommodate her.
  • Even the hospital had to build a new facility for her.
  • She continues to have seizures, she will never be able to walk and except that she weighs 248 kgs less now, there doesn’t seem to be any major change in her life or what she can expect of life.

Now, this is the clincher. I would have fully bought into Eman’s story if this whole medical intervention that happened would give her a somewhat, if not fully, normal life -starting with her going vertical and becoming perambulatory. For someone who has been bed-ridden most of her life and has depended on other people to clean her up even for her basic bodily functions, the surgery and the follow-up treatment does not seem to be holding up hope that one day she will manage her life independently.

This, therefore, begs the question: why then were such megabucks spent on her and will continue to be spent? Is she a medical use case for the doctors attending to her? Is she a medical novelty and therefore, it is intellectual curiosity that is fuelling the spend? Could the same resources have been better deployed such that it gave many others with life- threatening ailments a chance to recuperate and get a new life?

I have nothing against Eman Ahmed. I wish that after all that is being done to her medically, she will be able to get out of bed one day, walk out of the hospital, board a flight to her country and live an independent life. But even after all the treatment, if that is not even a remote possibility, why did we espouse her cause?

Did she just get lucky or is she a metaphor of something for all those who have been drawn to her cause?




Nandini Vaidyanathan is the founder of Carma Connect (www.CarmaConnect.in) which mentors entrepreneurs, teaches entrepreneurship in ivy league business schools across the world, writes on entrepreneurship (has written two best sellers), climbs and treks. She loves to live life on her terms, using her discretion and not someone else’s.

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