Gulf | Saudi Arabia

HIV-infected blood victim appeals for prayers

Rights watchdog says botched transfusion is crime, insists on trial

  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau chief
  • Published: 12:13 February 17, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • I need you to stand by me and to pray for me, says Reham.

Manama: The 12-year-old girl who was given HIV-infected blood in a botched transfusion at a Saudi hospital has appealed for support and prayers.

“I need you to stand by me and to pray for me,” Reham said in a video clip that has been widely distributed in social networks.

The case has sparked deep revulsion and outrage in Saudi Arabia where activists, focus groups and columnists have called for prompt action to help the girl and stringent measures against those found guilty of negligence.

Messages of compassion and sympathy as well as gifts and flowers were delivered to Reham as doctors attempted to deal with her case.

The girl, raised in poverty and lack of attention, however, did not seem to understand what was happening to her or around her family.

“I am used to going every year with my father and mother to the General Hospital in Jizan for a blood transfusion,” said Reham who suffers from sickle-cell anaemia.

“Last week, I went as usual to the hospital and at around 11pm, a nurse inserted a needle into my left hand for the blood transfusion. The nurse told me to sleep until it was over,” Reham, a sixth grader at a local school, told Saudi news site Sabq.

A doctor from the emergency department checked her up before she was allowed to leave the hospital, she said.

“However, after two days, I felt excruciating pain. It was different from the pain I had felt in the past. However, we could not go to hospital because my father did not have a car. At around midnight, while I was sleeping, my uncle woke me up and took me to an ambulance in our neighbourhood and they drove me to the King Fahad Central Hospital. I was very scared,” she said.

“There were several doctors there for me and as my uncle and I waited, my mother, father and aunt joined us. I was taken into a room and only my mom was allowed to stay with me,” she said.

A doctor gave her medicine and pain killers at around 7am, she added.

Reham was eventually taken to Riyadh and tests are still being conducted to assess her condition. According to a report, her mother and father are with her, but they are deeply affected by the tragedy that has struck the family.

On Thursday, the health ministry offered its apologies to Reham and her family and pledged to take action against those behind the tragic incident.

“There will be no tolerance in the case of Reham Al Hakami,” Abdullah Rabiaa, the health minister, said. “There will be stringent measures against whoever gave her the contaminated blood, even if he is a close friend,” he said in remarks published by Saudi daily Al Watan on Sunday.

The investigation into the incident is also seeking to identify the donor who gave the HIV-infected blood, amid concerns that he might have donated it in other hospitals as well.

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