In the summer of 2019, Waseem Abdulghani and his mother, Heyam, were visiting her parents overseas. When he woke up thirsty in the middle of the night and drank from what looked like a bottle of water, little Waseem had no idea it was actually cleaning fluid. That one sip had devastating effects.
They immediately rushed him to the local hospital where doctors treated the burns on his lips and administered poison remedies. Unfortunately, Waseem’s esophagus was already damaged. Much to their horror, it was starting to fuse shut. Wanting the best care possible for their boy, they quickly got on a flight home to Calgary and as soon as they landed drove straight to the Alberta Children’s Hospital.
There, specialists confirmed Waseem had suffered critical injury to his esophagus. Despite being almost entirely closed, surgeons detected a tiny opening as wide as the head of a pin that they were determined to salvage. After stabilizing Waseem, they inserted a feeding tube directly into his abdomen since he could no longer eat or drink by mouth. Then, the team began the painstaking process of dilating his esophagus one or two millimetres at a time during surgical procedures spaced one week apart.
As a restaurant owner, Abubakir often brought food home for everyone to enjoy, but after his injury, the family decided not to eat in front of Waseem since he was unable to join them. “Sometimes, when I stayed with him at the hospital after work, he would grab my hands and smell them because they smelled like lasagna – the food he loved the most! It just broke my heart.” Hearing that, the surgical team set their sights on getting Waseem to the place where he could safely eat lasagna. They constantly reminded him: “Today, we’re working towards lasagna!”
Over time, Waseem’s esophagus has become more and more stable and his procedures – previously done once a week – are now taking place every six weeks. He is able to eat most foods by mouth and his feeding tube was removed just last month.
Waseem’s father and family are at a loss for words to describe the care Waseem received – even as the COVID crisis was unfolding – and continues to receive at the hospital. “I feel like the luckiest man to live in this community and have these experts take care of my son.”
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