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A misdiagnosis that changed Arlene's life for ever

Arlene Gelindon loses speech as doctors fail to recognise stroke on time

  • By Muby Astruc
, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 21:53 August 8, 2012

  • Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/XPRESS
  • Arlene Leocadio lies semi-paralysed after being discharged from Rashid Hospital and unable to speak followed a misdiagnosis about what eventually turned out to be a stroke. Her niece Sheila (left) taking care of her at her home in Bur Dubai
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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

Shiela Gelindon, Arlene’s niece and closest family member in the UAE

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.”

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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

Comments (23)

  1. Added 16:56 August 9, 2012

    What can you expect? If you go to a hospital, everything is diagnosed as a viral infection and they will give you Panadol or paracetamol pratically for every diagnosis. Don't worry. I am pretty sure that you will recover your ability to speak. Maybe you can go to a speech therapist who can help you with your recovery.

    AUHPT, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 16:50 August 9, 2012

    If the medical staff itself are not able to detect the symptoms, how are they licensed to practice? This reveals the incapability of the medical staff to act in a timely manner and also little or no knowledge to handle emergencies. The authories should take some action in this matter. Perhaps, have this medical facility be liable for her treatment free of cost till she recovers. There should be more stringent controls in place to asess the medical staff and facilities at frequent intervals. Who can file a lawsuit against this medical facility if Arlene herself is in this condition? I just hope this is not another case getting buried in the books as time passes by.

    Susan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 16:40 August 9, 2012

    Doctors who are educated but not learned... Stop experimenting with peoples lives.

    john, los angeles, United States

  4. Added 16:36 August 9, 2012


    PIE, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 16:32 August 9, 2012

    How many cases similar to this are reported everytime? Lets sssume they will going to file a case, then how many months or years before the case will be over? And do you think,this suit will bring back her normal life and health??Besides, she needs money for her medication,and also if in case she will be needing a lot of money for this case. look at the damage done unto her. You notice that, even in cases of simple flu or cold, immediately hospital will take your blood sample and then give injections.. This is not the first case of misdiagnosis,a lot of such cases happen . just recently, i have a friend of mine, same case.. WE PLEAD TO THE authorities TO TAKE A LOOK AT THIS MATTER SERIOUSLY, THIS IS NOT JUST A SIMPLE CASE, THIS IS ABOUT LIFE AND DEATH,.

    concern citizen, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 14:26 August 9, 2012

    It is the responsibility of the authorities to resolve such matter by providing medical rights to customers as well as Doctors. Agreed, Doctors are human and capable of mistakes however, since there were 2 doctors involved, legal action by Arlene should be supported by the authorities and her medical fees should be waived or reimbursed by the Doctors at fault. As previous readers stated, the name of such hospitals / clinics and medical centers should be disclosed to the public so that other medical practitioners can take care of preventing their image from being tarnished by performing quality medical attention at all times.

    Maria, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 14:26 August 9, 2012

    So sorry to hear this story, but I want to note one thing. Some diseases have similar symptoms especially on early stages thus make them hard to diagnose especially when the paient and the family or friends don't provide the proper information. Sever anxity could cause someone to cease from speaking as well. It looks like she suffred from early stages of stroke which could be a bit tricky to diagnose in those early hours. May she recover soon.

    Mona, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 14:21 August 9, 2012

    If ever Shiela is reading this, please contact or go to Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and file a medical complaint in their Health Regulation Department aginst the hospital. E-mail : Toll Free: 800342 (800 DHA) Address: Health Regulation Department‘s Business Village Block B, 3RD Floor, Umm Hurair Road, Deira.

    Erza Scarlet, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 13:50 August 9, 2012

    Let these doctors be reminded of their oath. My heart goes to Arlene and her family.

    Ennaez, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 13:35 August 9, 2012

    A really sad situation with Arlene. May she get well soon, But its totally negligence from that 2 private doctors, I think the Philippine community or her cousin should drag this case to the court. And i am sure the court will hear and will take a positive decision in favor of Arlene.

    s, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

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