Dubai One month ago 43-year-old Filipina Arlene Gelindon was bubbly, enthusiastic and full of life. Her friends and colleagues looked up to her everlasting verve and unending optimism.
Today, Arlene sits cooped up in a tiny room she shares with four others, lost, unable to speak and often confused. A misdiagnosis by a prominent private hospital in Jumeirah has cost Arlene the loss of a vital part of her brain.
The doctors have told us that a large number of aphasia sufferers do eventually regain partial ability over their language skills, but it’s a long, slow process
On July 25, at 9.30am Arlene told her colleagues that she felt a numbness in her right arm, and requested to be rushed to the private hospital where she had a file.
Unknown to her, those would be the last words she uttered before the stroke. Once in the car en route to the hospital, Arlene lost the ability to speak.
“She was crying and extremely confused,” says her team leader and friend.
“She kept gesturing to her right arm, as though asking me to massage it. By the time we reached the hospital, she was a mess. The two doctors who attended to her wasted precious time asking her questions such as where her pain was and what was wrong with her, knowing fully well that she was unable to speak. Two hours later, they took a blood test, said she was suffering from an anxiety attack and gave her some valium intravenously. When she awoke, they asked us to take her to Rashid Hospital for a psychological analysis.”
By the time Arlene reached Rashid Hospital, she was vomiting from her mouth and nose.
“I’ve never seen her so afraid,” says her team manager. “She may not have been able to express what was happening to her, but she was in her senses. The doctors at Rashid Hospital took one look at her and voiced our worst fears: She had suffered a stroke. They said she had all the classic symptoms: loss of power in the arm, a drooping mouth and eye, vomiting, lack of speech… She was rushed in for a barrage of tests and scans to find the blood clot that was causing the stroke.”
Unfortunately for Arlene, by the time the doctors found the clot in the left hemisphere of her brain, it was too late to reverse the damage.
“Stroke patients have a window of four hours in which to reverse the damage caused by the stroke,” explains her team leader.
“In Arlene’s case, by the time the doctors had discovered it was a stroke, four and a half hours had passed. We were 30 minutes too late. Thirty minutes that may have forever changed the course of Arlene’s life,” he trails off.
The delay in administering a blood thinner to dilute the clot in Arlene’s brain caused her to suffer from acute aphasia, an impairment of language and communication abilities. This class of language disorder ranges from having difficulty remembering words to being completely unable to speak, read, or write.
“The doctors have told us that a large number of aphasia sufferers do eventually regain partial ability over their language skills, but it’s a long, slow process,” says Shiela Gelindon, Arlene’s niece and closest family member in the UAE.
“If she’s lucky, the recovery may begin as soon as six months, or may take up to two or three years,” she says, her eyes welling up with tears. In the meantime, Arlene will have to face the financial repercussions of a stroke and a medical misdiagnosis on her own.
“Her office insurance has paid her initial bills at Rashid Hospital,” says Shiela. “But now that she’s been discharged from hospital, she stands alone.” If Arlene’s visa expires in November and is not renewed, and if her Dh5,020 salary is taken away from her, she will be left destitute. From August 12, Shiela has to resume work in Abu Dhabi, leaving Arlene on her own.
With no money to afford a nurse or caretaker, Arlene’s life may potentially be in danger. Moreover, with an insurance that won’t pay any further bills, and a job that’s hanging on by a thread, Arlene’s financial future looks disastrous.
Calculations indicate that Arlene needs around Dh200,000 in medical-related costs to get through the next two years.
“As the bread winner of a large family back in the Philippines, Arlene has them to think about, as well as her own immediate needs,” says Shiela.
Those who wish to help Arlene may write to us at email@example.com