Dubai hospital worker pleads for help to get cancer treatment for toddler son

Anu Rai dreads taking coronavirus home to Aarev Shetty, 2, who has leukaemia and whose treatment could cost Dh700,000

A hospital worker in Dubai whose two-year-old son is battling leukaemia has pleaded for help to cover spiralling health costs.

Anu Rai's son Aarev was diagnosed with blood cancer in August last year.

The family was already struggling with huge bills after the treatment exceeded their Dh150,000 limit, but then father Sushant Shetty, 32, lost his job.

The bills could top Dh700,000 as Aarev faces another two years of chemotherapy and a possible bone marrow transplant in the United States.

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We thought it was just an issue with his muscles or something. We were completely broken into a million pieces

“Time is going slowly for all of us,” said Anu, from Delhi, who is a patient co-ordinator at a hospital in Dubai.

“It started in July 2019 when Aarev stopped walking on his own.

“We thought it was just an issue with his muscles or something.

“After doing a blood test we found he had cancer. We were completely broken into a million pieces.”

Early symptoms of leukaemia, a cancer of the blood or bone marrow, is often enlarged, painless lymph nodes in the neck, armpit and groin.

Fever, weight loss and chills can also be early indicators. Treatment can control the cancer and manage its symptoms and it can be cured if caught early enough.

Aarev will have three intensive chemotherapy sessions this year, but he will continue to have this treatment until 2022.

The kind of leukaemia he has does not have stages like other cancers, patients are either considered standard risk or high risk. Aarev is in the high risk category.

Mr Shetty, from Mumbai, lost his job as an assistant hotel HR manager in January.

Since then, the family has been in self-isolation to reduce the chance of infection.

Doctors are cautious treating the child as he is at an increased risk of being exposed to the virus.

The cancer and treatments has made his immune system weak.

The family has Dubai's basic mandatory medical insurance, which is capped at Dh150,000 of care per year.

“Aarev had a fever last month, and was in hospital for eight days,” said Ms Rai.

Although Aarev’s parents are both Indian, he has an American passport as he was born in New York during a family visit.

The family was able to take Aarev back to New York to have his cancer diagnosis confirmed on August 4 last year. He began treatment three days later at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in Queens but must continue his oncology care in the UAE.

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“I have sold my jewellery and asked friends and family for financial loans to help us pay for his ongoing treatment in Dubai," said Ms Rai, who lives in International City near Al Warqa.

“In January, when the insurance was due to be renewed, I asked for more support as I am only a hospital receptionist, but they could not give us extra cover. Now I am getting desperate.”

The family has been told Aarev needs three cycles of chemotherapy until 2020 at a cost of about Dh386,000.

Further medical costs, treatment and a potential bone marrow transplant in the US will cost at least an additional Dh280,000.

Aarev, whose latest chemotherapy session was last Wednesday, is treated at Mediclinic City Hospital in Dubai Healthcare City.

Members of the public are allowed to contribute to fund treatment, provided it is paid directly to the hospital treating the patient. Fundraising for private causes, without the sponsorship of one of the country's government-approved charities, is not legal.

Matthew Dronsfield, the hospital’s director, said his facility would support Aarev and his parents as much as possible.

“We understand the family’s unfortunate situation,” he said.

“We endeavour to support the patient and the family in any way it can moving forward, while providing them with the highest quality of care.”

For more information on how to support Aarev, contact his mother Ms Rai on +971 52 929 3967.