A liver transplant — from India with love and pain

Published June 28, 2015
Nalain Rubab Imran accompanied by doctors and nurses at the Apollo Hospital in New Delhi. — Photo by the writer
Nalain Rubab Imran accompanied by doctors and nurses at the Apollo Hospital in New Delhi. — Photo by the writer

Her nickname “Abiha” is still pasted on the wall with shining plastic tapes of different colours. More than a dozen men are squatting on the floor of the same room where I met 13-year-old Nalain Rubab Imran three months ago. She was excited over her planned journey to New Delhi along with her parents.

Nalain alias Abiha was about to leave for the Indian capital to get a second liver transplant. “I will buy lehngas (a traditional women’s dress worn on special occasions) and jewellery , like the kind worn by Phool Kanwal and Ajab Dev, the characters of a popular Indian drama,” a smiling Abiha had said.

Also read: Footprints: To India, for a liver

Her father Hamid Imran was serving in the health department in Saudi Arabia, when he found out about his daughter’s illness for the first time, in September 2011. Imran rushed her to Pakistan and brought her to a hospital in Islamabad where she was diagnosed with liver disease.

The doctors suggested a liver transplant, which costs about Rs5 million in Pakistan.

He took her to Saudi Arabia where the current King Suleman bore all the expenses of the transplant. Her mother was the donor. But, unfortunately, a few months later Abiha’s illness returned and the doctors advised another transplant.

This was the beggining of another ordeal for Imran because under Saudi rules, only a blood relative could be a donor but there was no one in the family whose blood group matched Abiha’s. Another problem was arranging the hefty amount of Rs5 million.

The distressed father ran from pillar to post to arrange the money, but to no avail. “Finally, a friend suggested to take Abiha to a morning show aired on a private Pakistani TV channel, where I appealed for aid,” he added. After the show was aired, Amber Riaz, the daughter of property tycoon Malik Riaz, assured the father that she would arrange all the financial help for the treatment of his daughter.

Having insufficient and costly facilities at home, the father left for India where he got an appointment at the Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.

Imran did not have any friend or relative in New Delhi but the family of Sardar Rattan Deep Singh Kohli, who was uprooted by partition from Chakwal, lived in the Indian capital. Mr. Kohli visits Chakwal regularly as he has a deep affection for his native soil.

The faculty members of Government High School No 1 Chakwal and some local correspondents also have a friendly bond with Mr Kohli as it was his grandfather Sardar Chet Singh, who along with his friend Sardar Harbans Singh and others, established the school in 1910.

Some friends of Mr Kohli’s from Chakwal gave Mr Kohli’s contact details to Imran and also handed him some gifts, which included Chakwal’s famous specialties barfi, dhoda and rewri. When Imran, his wife along with Abiha and a donor, Manzoor Hussain, reached Kohli’s home, he and his wife Paramjit Kaur warmly greeted them.

Coincidently, another Pakistani family from Sahiwal arrived in the hospital at the same time. The situation was emotional as Chakwal was the ancestral home of Mr Kohli while Sahiwal was the hometown of Paramjit Kaur.

Imran took Abiha to the market from where she bought lehngas and jewellery of her choice.

Abiha was operated on March 16. “All procedures during the surgery and recovery till now have been satisfactory according to the doctors. It was a 20-hour-long surgery. Still 10-14 more days are required for full recovery,” Rattan Deep Singh updated his Facebook status after the surgery.

But a few days later, Abiha’s health started deteriorating. Her visa, which was for 75 days, had to be extended. The doctors tried their best to save her life but she died on May 7. As her grandfather heard the tragic news, he also passed away from a heart attack.

“During our stay of over three months, we never felt for a moment that we were in some foreign country rather the exceptional love, affection and care showered by Kohli Sahib and his family made us felt that we were at some hospital in Chakwal,” says Imran.

“Kohli Sahib, their wife Paramjit Kaur and their younger son Gurjap Singh Kohli used to visit us thrice a day. Ms Paramjit would cook special foods for us. We did not face any problem in Delhi,” Imran adds.

Mr Kohli’s elder son Sardar Ramik Singh Kohli who works in Russia also came to India for four days.

“I had heard so much about Abiha from my mother that I had to meet her and Imran Ji. She was a brave soul even after going through two transplants she never shed a tear or showed pain. Her father was the same, very God-fearing and submissive to the will of God. He is a role model for me. I learnt that we must do our best but believe in God. Our religion also teaches the same but my friend from Chakwal displayed this attribute to its best,” said Ramnik Singh Kohli while talking to Dawn.

Imran says when he reached the Wagah border along with his daughter’s body, the Indian officials treated them with love and care. “When our ambulance stopped at the border, a soldier rushed to the vehicle and put a piece of green cloth on it so that the body could be saved from the scorching heat,” he says.

But Imran felt pain when he came across the officials of his own country. “We were stopped at the border for three hours. They asked me for the photocopies of Abiha’s passports which I did not have.”

He added: “Neither can I forget the love which I recieved in India nor the pain caused by the sudden death of my daughter.”

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2015

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