UAE: 5-year-old cancer survivor wants to become an oncologist

His mother first grew concerned when she saw bruises on his body after he came home from nursery; what followed was months of tests, treatments

On a fine Abu Dhabi summer day in 2019, Rim Obeid was chatting with her son, Rafi Abou Said, after he returned home from nursery, when she noticed a cluster of bruises on her body. A storm started brewing inside her as she thought those bruises were signs of physical abuse. But soon Rim found out that even gently holding Rafi left deep marks on his skin, which looked like bruises. Soon, doctors, including paediatricians and haematologists, were consulted. Initially, doctors thought that there was nothing to worry about as reports turned out to be normal. Meanwhile, Rafi’s platelets were dropping constantly. His condition presented an unprecedented crisis in the family while Rim had to look after her newborn too.

“Rafi was a happy and healthy child. Things changed after we found out about the unreasonable bruises on his body. We stopped his nursery classes. We padded up the house to protect him from getting hit anywhere, or developing any internal bleeding,” Rim told Khaleej Times on International Childhood Cancer Day.

“We kept repeating his tests as Rafi’s platelet count kept getting lower and lower but nothing else was appearing in the results.”

Finally, a circulating tumour cell (CTC) test could detect signs of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Trying an option for treatment in her home country, Rim went to Lebanon along with Rafi, which unfortunately back then was embroiled in October revolution. Rafi got diagnosed (for cancer). It was on Christmas Eve of 2019. The hospital was decorated for the festival and Rafi thought he was in some winter wonderland of Santa Claus. Little did he know that it was a cancer centre. The hospital had made arrangements for blood platelet donations. They made a nursery for Rafi, who was in isolation for some 10 months. We returned to Abu Dhabi to provide him more comprehensive care, once Rafi’s immunity got boosted,” she said, adding that they took him to Burjeel Medical City and test results were convincing. Rafi became stable in a month or two, in the summer of 2022.

Inspired to become an oncologist

Rim shared another anecdote when Rafi was reluctant to take medication in the initial phases of the treatment.

“He was resistant to medication. So, we named the medicines as superheroes and energy pills. Even as the initial phase of the treatment was difficult for him, he soon realised there was no other option. He adjusted. But towards the end of the treatment, he grew tired.”

It was in such tiring times that the medical and mental support by Dr Mansi Sachdev, consultant paediatric haematology, oncology and bone marrow transplant, helped.

“Doctors like Mansi were very comforting. She was ready to listen and offer emotional support. She would receive my phone call even beyond her working hours. She never felt annoyed. She would always tell me to call her anytime.”

Read Full Story: KhaleejTimes