Every step counts: Ahmad Ali during a physiotherapy session with Senior Physiotherapist Iyyappan Manickavasagam at Dubai Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Center Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/XPRESS

Dubai: A 36-year-old Emirati whose weight has uncontrollably ballooned to 270kg since 2007 is arduously battling a rare condition which remained undiagnosed for four years as no imaging machine in the world could accommodate a man of his size.

Father of two Ahmad Ali, who works for a Dubai government department, told XPRESS: “The past seven years have been hell. I weighed 95kg and led a healthy, normal life. But suddenly in 2007, I started gaining weight although my diet was the same.

"When it reached 160kg in four months, local doctors suspected a dysfunction of the pea-size pituitary gland at the base of the brain responsible for growth and hormonal balance. They wanted to put me under an MRI or magnetic resonance imaging scanner to arrive at the diagnosis.”

But in what compounded his problem, he could not go through an MRI machine as its maximum capacity - anywhere in the world - is just 150kg.

Ali said: “I was asked to go on a diet so I could bring my weight down to this figure but I couldn’t achieve it. Instead, my weight increased to 170kg over the next three months.”

He said over the next three years his weight reached 270 kg at which point the local doctors sent him to Germany. “I was referred to a specialist who put me on a rigorous rehab programme. I stayed there for seven months and my weight came down to 145kg. So an MRI scan was finally done and a benign tumour was found on my pituitary gland.”

He said he was put on medication to treat the tumour and was operated upon to remove an additional 10kg of fat waist down. “Satisfied with my progress, the German doctor sent me back to the UAE asking me to continue the medication that would keep the hormone levels stable.”

 

Relapse

That’s when Ali hit another stumbling block. “The prescribed medicine was yet to be recognised in the UAE and as I waited for the clearance, my weight started ballooning again. It went up to 240kg and I was promptly dispatched to Germany.”

By now, Ali said most doctors had told him that this was his lot and he had to learn to live with his strange condition. But one German doctor was willing to take a chance and operate on the tumour based on the 2011 MRI scan. “They couldn’t get an update on the tumour size as I could not get into the MRI machine again. So they went ahead and removed 90 per cent of the benign growth based on the earlier report.”

Ali, who returned to the UAE in October, said he lost 20kg after the operation and is currently on a rehab programme at DHA’s Dubai Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Center.

As the scales tipped towards 219kg last Thursday, Dr Suad Trebinjac, DHA consultant in physical medicine and rehabilitation who is treating him, said: “Ali is a brave man. He is being treated for lower back pain. We suspect a disc prolapse but we cannot prove our suspicion because of the MRI machine’s limited capacity.”

He said Ali’s case was a classic example that showed how obesity might not always be the result of excessive food intake but rather hormonal imbalance.

“Now that 90 per cent of the tumour has been removed, we will have to wait and see. He needs a follow up in Germany and is currently on a rehab programme. If his condition stabilises, we may consider a bariatric surgery. He is also a candidate for surgery for the disc prolapse.”

Despite the long road ahead, Ali said he is hopeful. “I have suffered a lot. My cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar levels have gone up. My self-esteem has hit an all-time low as people stare and children crack jokes about me. I cannot run around and play with my daughters. I have had to decline outings because a restaurant seat will not accommodate me or a taxi driver will not give me a ride. I hope all this will change soon. My target is to bring my weight back to 95kg so I can lead a normal life again.”

 

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