Sharjah: Every time six-year-old Ebrahim catches a cold or fever, the whole household, especially his father, becomes frantic with worry. The young boy’s immune system, after all, is still recovering after four rounds of chemotherapy.
The youngest son of Mohammad Siddiq, Ebrahim was born with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder where an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21 that alters his course of development.
In June last year, Ebrahim contracted a fever that lasted one week and doctors couldn’t figure out why. He was then taken to Dubai Hospital where doctors broke the news Siddiq feared the most — his son had blood cancer.
The whole time he was in hospital, my wife and I tried our hardest to remain strong for him. We could do nothing but pray for him and weep in secret.
Based on Ebrahim’s medical records, he had acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), a type of cancer where the bone marrow makes abnormal myeloblasts, a type of white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets. AML accounts for 15 per cent of leukaemia in children and 5 per cent of all childhood cancers.
Siddiq said Ebrahim was very cooperative during his chemotherapy from July 18 to November 13 last year. Though he had to have injections almost daily, the young Pakistani sat through it.
“The whole time he was in hospital, my wife and I tried our hardest to remain strong for him. We could do nothing but pray for him and weep in secret,” Siddiq, 47, an admin officer in Dubai, told Gulf News during a visit.
“He is full of innocence and is very precious to us.”
Ebrahim was discharged by mid-November after completing his treatment but this left the family with a mountain of medical debt worth Dh304,178.
Siddiq wasted no time and knocked on the doors of all the charities he could think of for help. His meagre salary of Dh10,500 is barely enough to send his son and daughter to university, one daughter to grade school, pay for their rent in a modest home in Sharjah and send money to elderly parents back home. Sometimes, there wouldn’t be much left. Siddiq would have to skip lunch in office just to get by.
The Sharjah Charity International, the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment, the Tarahum Charity Foundation, and Mohammad Omar Bin Haider Charity Establishment contributed and enabled him to pay Dh110,000 of the total bill.
But the remaining balance of Dh189,028 which he issued as a security cheque dated July 31, 2019 to Dubai Hospital is what sometimes robs him of his sleep at night.
“I am trying my hardest to provide for my whole family. But I can’t save anything with the income I have considering all my outgoings,” Siddiq, the sole breadwinner of the family, said.
Hugging his son and his voice low, Siddiq said he has nowhere else to go to ask for help.
“Whoever could help me please this Ramadan, may God bless them and make their life easy.”
As for Ebrahim, he is still unable to walk down the stairs nor talk. He has not gone to school because they have been advised to wait for two years until he is fully well. But even then, the family can’t afford a special education school for him.
“I dream for him to be able to talk and I’d like to get him admitted to a school,” Siddiq said. “But our main focus is his well-being for now, to make sure he doesn’t get sick. We cannot think or imagine his future or dream dreams for him yet as we’re barely getting through today.”