Need for support. Despite his dismal situation, Alan Himes says he is grateful to be alive and walking again - albeit with a walker Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/XPRESS

Abu Dhabi: A destitute American expat living in Sharjah is finally debt-free after a private hospital in the capital excused his Dh230,000 bill.

Alan Himes, 70, racked up the medical bills when he was hospitalised at Abu Dhabi’s Universal Hospital with a broken back last year (2016). After receiving regular therapy and treatment for the pain, he was discharged after more than three months, but could not find the means to pay the hospital.

Penniless American desperate to clear hospital bill

“I am very grateful for this kind gesture by the hospital, which took very good care of me. When I went in, I could barely sit up. But now, I can walk and at the least, take care of my daily needs,” Himes told Gulf News.

Dr Shabeer Nellikode, managing director at the Hospital, said the bills had been written off as a humanitarian gesture.

“We diagnosed and treated the gentleman’s spinal fracture last year, and discharged him after assurances from a business partner that the payments would be made. Afterwards, we didn’t hear from the patient, and when we were recently informed about his situation, we felt it was only right to waive the bill,” he said.

Despite this generosity, Himes still has no place to go. Estranged from a daughter who lives in California, Himes has no one to support him, and claims he lost all his savings when an oilfield equipment company that he owned in Bahrain went bankrupt a few years ago. His attempt to start up another firm in the UAE failed too when his one-time partner stopped returning his calls.

“He stopped being in touch when I was hospitalised a month after I reached Abu Dhabi. So now I am here in Sharjah, and I survive on the kindness of good souls at the St Mary’s Catholic Church in Dubai. A couple provides me with food, and the church even paid the rent for the bedroom that I stay in. I have nowhere else to go,” he said.

A Vietnam War veteran, Himes says he is mostly physically fit, and would love to have a job through which he could contribute his oilfield knowledge and expertise.

“I have an abdominal hernia that needs to be operated on soon, and I want to be able to pay those bills. Having received such generosity in the UAE, I would also like to do my bit,” he said.