Dubai: Sumi C., 24, cannot remember a month without being admitted to a hospital in the past eight years. The Indian expat woman used to be hospitalised for almost a week every month, knocked down by severe abdominal pain and non-stop vomiting. Worsening her pain, the doctors could not diagnose the cause while she was back home.
“I could hardly eat anything. I used to become breathless and collapsed many times,” Sumi told Gulf News.
“Every time I went through this episode, my parents rushed me to the hospital. I cannot recall how many doctors I have consulted in the past eight years. Everybody ran a chain of tests. But when the reports came, everything was normal. Nobody could explain the real cause of my condition,” said Sumi.
But the days of suffering are finally over for her.
A multi-disciplinary team of doctors at a private hospital in Dubai diagnosed a rare disease to be the cause of her condition and cured her.
In October 2022, a team of doctors at Aster Hospital, Qusais, diagnosed that Sumi had celiac artery compression syndrome, a rare condition that affects two out of 100,000 people.
People suffering from this uncommon condition have little blood supply to their upper abdominal organs due to the compression of the celiac artery by a muscular fibrous band of the diaphragm. It causes severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and weight loss.
Lost 23kg in one month
Despite the odds posed by her health, Sumi completed her MBA and relocated to Dubai in 2022 to pursue a career in business administration. “I got a job and was doing well. My health had somehow improved and I gained weight during the COVID [movement restrictions] and I did not fall sick. It gave me immense confidence. Finally, I felt like life was getting normal and better for me. Earlier I used to eat only small portions fearing I would start vomiting or getting abdominal pain. I was frail and skinny. But here, I started enjoying the food and relished all varieties,” recalled Sumi.
But Sumi’s relief was short-lived. In October 2022, she started experiencing severe abdominal pain and vomiting again. Her brother, with whom she stays, rushed her to Aster Hospital, Qusais.
At the hospital, Dr Johny Pappachan, a specialist in internal medicine, attended to her in the emergency. Sumi was weak and dehydrated due to non-stop vomiting. Her brother had to narrate her medical history to the doctor.
Dr Pappachan said Sumi’s was a puzzling case.
“Initially, we decided to treat her symptomatically. She became better in a few days. But we could not zero in on the root cause. All her general tests were normal. But she had had a drastic weight loss. From 65kg, she dropped around 23kg in a month. It struck me then that it could be a case of celiac artery compression syndrome. I discussed the case with our general surgeon and gastroenterologist. We decided to do a CT Angiography [CTA], and luckily, we could zero in on the cause,” he explained.
For Sumi and her family, the diagnosis of the root cause of her failing health came as a big relief. “Finally, I had an answer to what had been affecting my health. It took eight years to diagnose my condition,” said Sumi.
Dr Reji Chandran, specialist general surgery at the hospital, said the other doctors, who had treated Sumi, could not figure out the case because they had not opted for CTA.
“Normally, doctors would advise a CT scan to figure out any abnormalities in the abdomen. But to zero in on this case, we must do a CT Angio. Fortunately, our intuition was correct. We could diagnose the case that had been troubling her for a long time,” said Dr Chandran.
Surgery was the only remedy. The doctors communicated this to Sumi and her brother. Dr Reji teamed up with his colleague Dr Prajob Prasad, specialist gastroenterology, to perform a minimally invasive surgery that would relax the muscle compressing the celiac artery and reinstate the blood flow to the upper abdominal organs.
“The surgery was a success, and Sumi tolerated the procedure well. But we had to wait for another couple of months to check for any recurrence. In some patients, there are chances of recurrence. In such cases, we have to perform the procedure again to relax the muscles,” explained Dr Prasad.
However, in Sumi’s case, the surgery was a success as there has been no incidence of recurrence three months post the procedure.
Post the surgery, Sumi recovered well. “I now eat healthy food and go to the gym regularly. I am gaining weight and becoming healthy and stronger than before. Currently I weigh 48.5kg and I am trying to reach my ideal weight which is 52kg.
“Big thanks to the doctors at Aster Hospital, Qusais. Even after the treatment, they are guiding me well. They came into my life like angels. After a long time, I am enjoying life. My family is also happy,” said Sumi.