Jody Ann Rodriguez in a coma. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The family of a Canadian expatriate who slipped into a coma following an asthmatic attack is appealing for help.

Jody Ann Rodriguez, 56, who has been a Dubai resident for 12 years, does not have health insurance and her family is worried about mounting hospital bills.

Rodriguez, wife of celebrated UAE-based filmmaker and conservationist Jonathan Ali Khan, was feeling breathless on the morning of June 29.

“My wife and I were just sitting back and relaxing a bit on the morning of June 29. Jody had finished some chores when she said she was not feeling well. She has been a long standing asthma patient. She used her inhaler, but that did not work, so she underwent a round of nebulisation as she keeps a nebuliser at home. But one round of nebulisation did not help and starting another round, Jody told me to call an ambulance as she sensed she was in deeper trouble,” Khan told Gulf News.

The ambulance arrived later than usual after a few phone calls to and from the Khan residence. Khan estimates that it arrived in 20 minutes.

Jody Aly Khan with sons Lucas and Nico. Image Credit: Supplied

“The paramedics put on the defibrillator and realised she required CPR which they started. However, they called in a second, advanced ambulance which arrived later and they drove her to the nearest hospital administering CPR,” he said.

Doctors of the hospital in Dubai Investment Park where she was taken estimate that she was brought in at least 40 minutes after the CPR had begun. One of the doctors attending to her told Gulf News: “When the patient was brought in she was not breathing, her heart had stopped. Her brain had been deprived of oxygen for a good 35-40 minutes.”

Grade 3 coma

Rodriguez was revived at the hospital ER and put on a ventilator and life support. On the Glasgow Scale, she has been classified to be in Grade 3 coma. The classification is determined based on eye movement, motor activity and other parameters.

Khan, 58, who himself has recently recovered from a pulmonary oedema and heart failure, is juggling between home and hospital. Rodriguez’s four children Luca, Neo, Mateo and Ashley are in the US. Although devastated by this heartbreaking news, they are unable to fly to the UAE as Khan cannot afford it. He is facing eviction from his rented home, he said.

Both Khan and Rodriguez do not have health insurance as they are in the process of a visa change. So far, the 10-day bill at the hospital has come up to over Dh122,000.

The family has launched a ‘Save Jody Medical fund’ on a crowd funding website through Kimmy Ali Khan’s Facebook page. Kimmy is Jonathan Ali Khan's sister.

Friends wrote messages on the crowd funding page, recalling Rodriguez as a compassionate human being, a cat lover who cared for 10 cats at home and a fabulous mother. The community of friends is praying for her revival.

In the meanwhile, Khan keeps playing Rodriguez audio tapes of the voices of their four children in the hopes it will help. But with no motor or brain activity he fears the worst. He added that the hospital has decided to convene a panel of three specialist to assess whether the condition Rodriguez is in was reversible, and once the assessment is complete only then the family will know what lies ahead.

How to handle a severe asthma episode?

Dr Sandeep Pargi, specialist pulmonologist at Aster Hospital, Mankhool, explained what happens during a severe asthma attack.

“During a severe attack, the patient suffers from broncho spasms that block the airways and deprive the brain of oxygen. Lack of oxygen causes hypoxic damage to the brain, damaging the neurons to the brain. Usually even three or four minutes of oxygen deprivation can cause irreversible damage and in this case Grade 3 coma would mean there is no cerebral activity and the body is on autonomous nervous system,” he said.

Asthma is a common condition in the UAE but usually patients who suffer from mild to severe versions of the condition have several steps for recourse. First they use the cortio steroid oral inhalers. Then they use nebulisation to ease the bronchus and open the respiratory airways. In case of severe attacks, patients keep SOS antihistamine and cortico steroid injections. However, doctors advise patients to reach a clinic or hospital immediately when a patient undergoes even a mild asthmatic attack.

“This is important because at the clinic the doctor can administer IV cortico steroid, supplement oxygen with a cylinder, start nebulisation and immediately relieve the patient. Any delay in resuscitating a patient deprived of oxygen can result in irreversible damage,” added Dr Pargi.