Single mother struggles to support autistic son after losing job

Neelam Bhatia's son is autistic and suffers from a genetic disorder which requires costly medical check-ups

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , September 29 – 2020 :- Neelam Bhatia with her son Dhiren Bhatia at the Bonnington hotel in JLT in Dubai. (Pawan Singh / The National) For News. Story by Kelly

A single mother who was made redundant due to Covid-19 is desperately looking for full-time work so she can continue with medical treatment for her son.

Neelam Bhatia, who has lived in the UAE for more than 20 years, lost her job as a sales representative two months ago.

Her 22-year-old son, Dhiren Bhatia, is autistic and has neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumours to form on nerve tissue.

As his sole carer, she said she has struggled to keep up with his annual medical check-ups due to a lack of finances.

“I lost my job on July 12,” she said.

“I am staying in a studio apartment given to me by my previous company and have to vacate the premises in November as the tenancy contract expires.

“If I can't find a job before this, my fear is that my son and I will have no home to go to.

“To add to my concern, his condition is not covered under insurance but he needs regular follow-ups with the doctors.”

Ms Bhatia, from India, said her previous employer has been a huge support in the past, providing accommodation for her and Dhiren.

Her former employer also agreed to keep her current visa active until March next year as she continues her job search.

“They have been a blessing to me but my focus now is on finding work so I can support my son and I,” she said.

“Both my parents have passed away and my husband abandoned us many years ago so Dubai is my only home, we want to stay here.”

Dhiren, who was previously under the care of a specialist hospital in Dubai, is required to have regular MRI scans to check on the progress of his tumours.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , September 29 – 2020 :- Neelam Bhatia with her son Dhiren Bhatia at the Bonnington hotel in JLT in Dubai. (Pawan Singh / The National) For News. Story by Kelly

With a full body scan costing close to Dh20,000, the mother-of-one said he was due a check-up in January but she was unable to secure a sponsor for the scan.

“I can’t afford to pay for it myself. In the past, the scans and treatment have been sponsored by kind donors,” she said.

"If someone could help support Dhiren's check-ups annually it would be a big weight off my shoulders.

“Right now, I just need help finding a job. If someone can give me that chance then I can sustain a life for my son and I.

“I know there are a lot of people in my position who have lost their job due to coronavirus but my situation is different.

“I am a single mother and the sole carer to my son who has special needs. I have to work to survive and pay for my son’s medical bills.”

The duo have been surviving on little money since July but food donations from friends and community members have helped get them by.

And although Ms Bhatia's current visa is open until March next year, she said Dhiren's will expire in January.

"If I find a job I can sponsor him under my visa again, but without one it will be difficult, if not impossible, to finance it on my own," she said.

"I am an optimistic person so I believe that very soon I will be back on my feet again."

Ms Bhatia has experience working in sales and finance and is ideally suited for a role in administration, accounts, customer service or credit control.

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