It was the night before Eid Al Fitr when a 14-year-old child was taken to Khoula Hospital with a metal rod stuck 7cm deep inside his skull. The panicked family waited outside the emergency room with prayers on their lips and tears in their eyes, hoping that the life and vision of their dear one will be saved somehow.
The man who turned up in answer to their prayers was Dr Taimour al Balushi who skipped his Eid prayer to perform another sacred obligation, a life-saving surgery.
“The ailing kid was transferred from a hospital to another before the Director-General of Khoula Hospital, Dr Hamed al Kindi, saw the case in the emergency room and decided to call me,” Al Balushi said.
“When the boy was playing in the backyard of his home in Barka, a rusty, rugged rod penetrated his eyelid, passing through the orbital roof and apex of the orbital cavity to reach a very sensitive part of his skull,” Al Balushi said.
SM (name changed) is the only son of his parents and any complication during the two-hour surgery could have caused lifelong sorrow to the family.
“The tip of the rod was very close to a major artery inside the skull which, if torn, would have caused life-threatening bleeding,” Al Balushi told Y magazine. “Any hasty move could have resulted in loss of sight,” he added.
The risk of death was less than 5 per cent, but “we were ready in case the optic nerve or any other artery got torn”.
“Bismillah,” the 50-year-old sergeant said before deftly pulling out the 13cm rod from an entangled tissue.
After spending two days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and three more days in the hospital, the boy was discharged.
“The medical team did a fantastic job. We cannot thank them enough for helping us,” said Omar al Harthi, a relative of the child.
While the case caught the media’s attention in the Sultanate and was published in almost all the daily papers in Oman, Al Balushi said Khoula Hospital medics at the plastic and craniofacial surgery department performed groundbreaking operations every now and then.
Dr Al Bulushi said: “We have performed at least 150 serious craniofacial (skull and face) surgeries since the establishment of the craniofacial surgery unit in 2008. Among them, 35 were children aged between four months and two-and-a-half years with serious skull deformity,” he added.
Each surgery costs between RO25,000 and RO30,000, according to Al Balushi. “Some can cost up to RO50,000,” he added.
Before 2008, the Ministry of Health used to send craniofacial cases, specially craniosynostosis patients, to Germany and Australia for treatment but now they are being treated locally at public hospitals, according to Al Balushi. “Zero cases were sent abroad from Oman after the establishment of craniofacial surgery unit at Khoula Hospital,” he added.
Dr Al Balushi graduated from Karachi University before he got a scholarship to Ireland and then to Australia to work under Prof. David J David, head of the Australian Craniofacial Unit and president of the Australian Craniomaxillofacial Foundation.
“I would like to extend my gratitude to the Ministry of Health and to the Director General of Khoula Hospital Dr Ali Al Mashani for their continuous support to develop the department,” the doctor said.