My Ramadan: The surgeon who remains dedicated to work despite fasting

Dr Mohammed Qazafi Memon knows that performing operations on people during Ramadan is a particular challenge but he is well versed enough in both his work and Ramadan to be able to handle it.

ABU DHABI // Performing operations on people during Ramadan is a particular challenge for Muslim doctors as they have to control their emotions, thirst and hunger in the knowledge that a minor lapse could be fatal for the patient.

But despite the potential pitfalls, it does not stop one Abu Dhabi surgeon from enjoying the holy month as he has done every year since he was five years old.

Dr Mohammed Qazafi Memon, a neurosurgeon at the Universal Hospital of Abu Dhabi, fasted for a whole 15 days aged 5.

“But when I reached the age of six, I fasted for the entire 30 days of Ramadan,” Dr Memon said. “Everybody in the family would observe fasting in a very joyful and festive manner and my parents always encouraged us to fast from a very younger age.”

However, the spinal neurosurgeon admitted that it can be a challenge in his line of work.

“Performing surgeries while fasting really can affect operations, no denying that, as when a person is thirsty and hungry, very quickly they may loose their temper in the operating theatre, which may be fatal for the person lying on table,” he said.

“But we are trained to handle surgical situations with patience, alertness and self-control. In fact, fasting teaches us complete self-control.”

Dr Memon has only been in the capital for two months, and it is his first Ramadan here, but he has performed more than 25 procedures already, including 12 major spinal surgeries.

Seven of those operations were performed while the Pakistani doctor was fasting.

“When you fast your anger level gets a little higher but the fasting teaches us how to control our inner emotions,” he said.

“Surgery is team work. When you are in a commanding position and leading a team, your responsibility multiplies.

“Even other staff who work with me also fast so during surgeries, if I shout on them and they can’t bear it, it can create problems. But we control our emotions and anger all the time in the operating theatre.”

Dr Memon completed his MBBS, or bachelor of medicine, bachelor of surgery, in 1999, general surgery in 2004 and neurosurgery in 2007.

He has four daughters, aged 16, 12, 10 and 8, and had a fifth but she died from a hole in the heart. “I pumped her heart and put in all my effort but couldn’t save her. We [as doctors] are not bigger than God,” he said.

While studying for his MBBS, Dr Memon’s father died and he was the eldest and so had to support the rest of his family - four brothers and one sister - and he did this through starting a small pharmacy in Hyderabad.

Whether fasting or not, Dr Memon always keeps one thing in mind when he’s conducting an operation. “When we do surgeries, we keep in mind that this should be the first and last surgery of the patient and he shouldn’t be operated on for the same problem again,” he said.