Eight-month-old Mohammed Ibrahim in the makeshift ICU Image Credit: Clint Egbert/XPRESS

Dubai: An Indian couple in Dubai has been forced to turn their one-bedroom apartment into a makeshift Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for their ailing eight-month-old son as they could no longer afford the high cost of keeping him in a hospital.

Mohammed Zabiulla Khan and his wife Shazia Ahsan said their son Mohammed Ibrahim suffers from central hypotonia, a condition that leads to poor muscle development, and needs to be supported on a ventilator with 24/7 monitoring.

Shazia said doctors at the public hospital where he was being treated advised them to bring Ibrahim home as they were finding it difficult to meet the mounting hospital bills.

Mini ICU

“Everything that you will find in an ICU unit of a hospital is right here in this apartment,” said the New Dubai resident, pointing to Ibrahim’s ventilator, emergency respiratory support, oxygen concentrator, pulse oximeter and other medical equipment.

There’s also an air purifier, hand sanitisers, sterile aprons, gloves, masks and two back-up oxygen cylinders.

Ibrahim, who weighs just over four kilograms, has several tubes in his body, including those connecting him to the ventilator, oxygen concentrator and nasal feed.

His parents said they had taken special permission from the building’s management to close the apartment’s balcony and fit two exhaust fans to facilitate fresh air circulation. In the top corner, there is also a camera that remains focused on Ibrahim at all times.


Shazia said before Ibrahim was discharged from hospital, she was given extensive training on kangaroo feeding, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of the ventilator and other machines.”

“The ventilator pumps four millilitres of oxygen into his body every minute. A pulse oximeter attached to his feet monitors the oxygen saturation in his body. Typically, its reading should be between 94 and 96. If it goes below, it means there is an obstruction in his tracheostomy airway which is blocking the flow of oxygen to his lungs. I have been trained to remove this obstruction and clear the passageway,” said Shazia.

“Every other day I need to change Ibrahim’s tracheostomy tie which holds the tube in his trachea inside the throat. This requires a lot of precision and I take my husband’s help for it. Positioning the child is equally important as the ventilator tube has to be kept straight at all times. Otherwise, it can lead to internal bleeding,” she added.


Ibrahim is tube-fed special milk every three hours. “He takes 76 ml of milk at every feed. Like the ICU staff at the hospital, I have learnt to fix the milk bottle to the feeding tube and regularly clean it,” said Shazia. She said Ibrahim is likely to be on ventilator support until he shows signs of progress.

“His muscles have to develop and only then will we be able to wean him away from the ventilator. As parents we are doing all we can, but he needs to fight it out too.”

The couple are sitting on outstanding hospital bills of over Dh500,000. Khan, who worked for an interior company, lost his job last month. “I was spending a lot of time at home taking care of our three other children. We do not know how we will manage now,” he said.