For about 25 years, Eman Ahmed Abd El Aty never left her home.
For many of those years, she was confined to her bed.
All of that changed Saturday when the Egyptian national, believed to be the world's heaviest woman at 1,100 pounds, was flown from Alexandria to Mumbai. There, Abd El Aty is set to undergo a risky bariatric surgery that, if successful, could give her a chance at a “normal, healthy life,” her surgeon said.
Even transporting the 36-year-old to India required months of logistical preparations, an array of special equipment and government intervention.
Abd El Aty's would-be surgeon had to lobby India's minister of external affairs to grant her a travel visa, after she was initially denied one for not showing up in person at the Indian Embassy in Cairo.
Since Abd El Aty had not moved much for more than two decades, she was put on blood thinners to reduce the risk of a pulmonary embolism during the transfer, according to a blog her family set up to document her journey.
Locals constructed a special bed with wheels that could hold Abd El Aty once she was out of the house. Video shot by the family showed a crane lifting Abd El Aty — lying in her specially made bed — out of a window of her home on an unspecified floor of an Alexandria building. For several precarious seconds, she dangled in the air as the crane paused, with workers shouting instructions to one another. At last, she was lowered to the street.
Before the flight to India, Egypt Air equipped its plane with a ventilator, a defibrillator, oxygen and other medical supplies in case something went wrong midair.
Once in Mumbai, local television stations aired footage of Abd El Aty being driven from the airport to Saifee Hospital in a truck, followed by an ambulance and police cars. The Times of India published a photo of another crane lifting Abd El Aty's bed from the truck and placing it directly in a special room the hospital had created.
At a news conference Monday, Muffazal Lakdawala, the bariatric surgeon who will operate on Abd El Aty, listed her various medical ailments, which would make caring for her a challenge: Hypertension. Hyperthyroidism. Gout. Diabetes. Severe sleep apnea. Pressure sores.
Her body mass index, or BMI, was 252, Lakdawala said. Under World Health Organization guidelines, people with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese.
Lakdawala spoke to The Washington Post's Ben Guarino in December, saying Abd El Aty's sister had reached out to him after they had run out of options in Egypt. She sent the doctor in India a photograph of Abd El Aty, bedridden and, she suspected, weighing somewhere around half a ton.
“My initial reaction was ‘How is she even alive?’” Lakdawala said then. But “if I can somehow use whatever God-gifted talent I have to save her, I must try.”
At the time, Lakdawala told The Post that he was not sure how he would proceed with the treatment. In the months since, he and his team have drafted a four-year plan for Abd El Aty that will start with using medicine and a protein-rich diet to minimize water retention.
“For all of those people who believe that it's only because of what she eats, that's not true,” Lakdawala said in a YouTube video last month. “There is a host of medical problems that she has, which we are going to try and decipher and try and cut down one by one at a time.”
The first goal will be to make her safe enough for bariatric surgery, he said. Then Lakdawaka plans to perform a sleeve gastrectomy, in which the size of the stomach is greatly reduced, according to the Times of India. Unlike in other forms of bariatric surgery, no intestines are removed or bypassed in a sleeve gastrectomy.
Lakdawala is performing the surgery on Abd El Aty pro bono, but the family has been raising funds to cover her travel and other medical expenses.
— Dr Muffi Lakdawala (@DrMuffi) January 19, 2017
“It will need a long journey,” Lakdawala said in the YouTube video. “Everything will be difficult, but it's not a journey which we cannot take.”
He estimated that Abd El Aty would require two or three rounds of surgery; the goal was to get her, eventually, under 220 pounds. But the ultimate goal was to “make sure that she lives a normal, healthy life,” Lakdawala said at the new conference on Monday.
“I want to ensure that Eman, who has been bedridden for over a decade, is able to travel back sitting in a business class seat to Alexandria,” Lakdawala told the Times of India.