190618 Mohammad Siddiq
Mohammad Siddiq with his son Ebrahim at their home in Sharjah. Born with Down syndrome, Ebrahim was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in June last year. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: Until last week, Pakistani expatriate Mohammad Siddiq dreaded the date July 31, which was when his Dh189,000 cheque issued for his son’s hospital bill would bounce. Then total strangers — Gulf News readers — paid it all off, much to his surprise.

The hospital bill was the outstanding balance for the four rounds of chemotherapy Mohammad’s six-year-old son Ebrahim went through until November. Residents rallied to help the family after reading their plight in Gulf News in May.

Dh304,178

Total hospital bill out of which Dh110,000 was paid by UAE charities

Born with Down syndrome, Ebrahim was diagnosed in June last year with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a type of cancer where the bone marrow makes abnormal myeloblasts, a type of white blood cell, red blood cells or platelets.

Mohammad Siddiq thanks Gulf News readers for helping his son Ebrahim Janice Ponce de Leon, Staff Reporter

I saw myself in his condition. I felt his pain. The only difference is my son is covered by my company insurance and is being treated in India

- Suraj Kumar Sethi, Gulf News subscriber

UAE charities had earlier paid Dh110,000 of the total Dh304,178 bill. But Mohammad’s meagre salary as an admin officer in Dubai was not enough to pay for the balance of almost Dh190,000.

He is barely making ends meet with four children to support, two of whom are in university.

NAT_190527_Appeal-Case-Down-Syndrome-ARAMZAN-11~1-(Read-Only)
Mohammad Siddiq with his six-year-old son Ebrahim, who has Down syndrome and was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

“After our story came out in Gulf News, the calls kept coming,” Mohammad, 47, told Gulf News, his voice full of awe.

Pitching in

Scores of readers from all over the UAE responded and pitched in. Among them was Suraj Kumar Sethi, an Indian expat who has been a subscriber of Gulf News for 12 years.

“I felt very sad after reading the story. I was crying for one hour. I, too, have a six-year-old son with Down syndrome and was recently diagnosed with blood cancer. I saw myself in his condition. I felt his pain. The only difference is my son is covered by my company insurance and is being treated in India,” said Sethi, 50, an HVAC service engineer. “Thank you Gulf News for sharing his story with us.”

Sethi said he shared the news with his colleagues at Ingersoll Rand and everyone, including his manager Mohammad Rafiq, pooled whatever amount they could to contribute to the medical bill.

When we went to the hospital to check the remaining balance, we were told one donor had just been there before us and issued a cheque covering the total remaining balance but wanted to keep it anonymous

- UAE resident and Gulf News reader

Other readers reached out, with many of them requesting to remain anonymous. Together, they paid around Dh20,000 directly to Dubai Hospital, while another cheque was issued to the hospital for Dh10,000.

Members of the Pakistani community also swung into action and gathered pledges of Dh135,000.

“When we went to the hospital to check the remaining balance, we were told one donor had just been there before us and issued a cheque covering the total remaining balance but wanted to keep it anonymous,” one resident said. “We wanted to help, but it has already been taken care of so there was no need for those who pledged to give anything. Mr Mohammad said he had been struggling for the last six months. Finally, God has heard his cry.”

NAT 190603 Ibrahim4-1560768147724
hmed Ramzan/ Gulf News Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman /Gulf News

Gulf News reached out to the Dubai Health Authority and it confirmed that Ebrahim’s entire bill has been settled.

In his modest home in Sharjah, Mohammad could not contain his emotions. He politely declined other help but accepted some readers’ request to visit Ebrahim during Eid to give him Eidiya.

“I can’t believe it’s all settled now after all the difficulties I had gone through,” Mohammad said. “I would like to thank all the Gulf News readers who helped us and prayed for us. Thank you Gulf News and to the team who worked with us. All of you will always be in our prayers.”

“As soon as Ebrahim is completely healed and cleared for school, we will enrol him in a special education school. The future is getting clearer now and that’s all because of you. Thank you.”