For more than two decades, Eman Ahmed Abd El Aty has not left her home in Egypt. But now the 36-year-old woman is set to travel 2,700 miles to Mumbai for potentially life-saving surgery. Abd El Aty weighs 500 kilograms, or about 1,100 pounds, according to her family.
At that weight, Abd El Aty would be the heaviest woman alive by roughly 450 pounds, and close to the heaviest woman ever to live. (At her heaviest, Michigan woman Carol Yager weighed 1,189 pounds, according to a 1993 Associated Press report.)
Muffazal Lakdawala, a bariatric surgeon at the Center for Obesity and Digestive Surgery in Mumbai, will operate on Abd El Aty. The doctor has performed the most single-incision laparoscopic surgeries, a minimally-invasive procedure that relies on video cameras threaded into the body, in the world, according to his bio on the medical center’s website. The Times of India reported that Lakdawala has operated on high-ranking Indian politicians, including two ministers in India’s cabinet.
Lakdawala told the Washington Post he has operated on patients above 660 pounds before, but Abd El Aty’s surgery will be “very high risk.”
Abd El Aty’s sister contacted Lakdawala after Egyptian doctors determined there was little they could do for the bedridden woman. When Lakdawala received her photograph, as the surgeon told The Post by phone early Thursday, he was stunned.
“My initial reaction was, ‘How is she even alive?’” Lakdawala said. But he was determined to help. “If I can somehow use whatever God-gifted talent I have to save her,” he said, “I must try.”
To operate on patients with extreme weights, even transportation is an obstacle. In 2014, a crane was required to move the then-heaviest man in the world, Manuel Uribe, to a hospital. Taking Abd El Aty out of her home will likely require the demolition of a wall in her room, Lakdawala said
And Abd El Aty’s case has already faced hurdles. Getting a visa from the Indian Embassy in Cairo threatened to halt Abd El Aty’s voyage, because it required visiting the embassy for fingerprinting. So Lakdawala petitioned Sushma Swaraj, India’s Minister of External Affairs, on Twitter. Abd El Aty received her medical visa shortly thereafter. The doctor said he is now communicating with commercial airlines to find a plane with an entrance that can accommodate Abd El Aty. He anticipates she will fly to Mumbai within a week to 10 days.
As for the medical procedure itself, which Lakdawala said he is performing pro bono, he does not know yet exactly what he will do. Abd El Aty’s medical records are sparse. But he believes the weight-loss surgery will help her lose at least 200 to 300 pounds.
He also anticipates Abd El Aty will need to remain in Mumbai for months as she recovers. “In every sense she’s a challenge,” Lakdawala said. “This is a challenge not just for my skill set but for my team.”
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