How Compassion Sans Frontières saved the life of little Ismaïl

Philippe Laïk had just flown in from the US when he took the call in the back of a Parisian taxi.

His cook was calling from the Laïk mansion above Menton, her voice trembling as she passed on the bad news. Her 11-year-old nephew, Ismaïl Dlimi, lay close to death in a Moroccan hospital. His heart had failed, and he had already “died” and been resuscitated twice. The situation was desperate; the family of the young lad did not know where to turn for help.

Ismail Dlimi and the Chain of CompassionThe chain of compassion.
In the private residence of the Princess in Rabat, left to right:
Mme Irina Alekseeva, Mr Philippe Laïk, Her Royal Highness Lalla Fatima Zahra, Mr Bendriouch, Ismaïl Dlimi.

Luckily Philippe did, and having decided to do all he could to save a young life, he quickly went on the trail of Professor Gilles Dreyfus, the medical head of the renowned Cardio Thoracic Centre in Monaco. He called a radiologist on Dreyfus’s team and spoke to him in Marbella.

Phillipe, a Monegasque businessman, takes up the story: “By an amazing stroke of luck, sitting opposite the radiologist was Mohammed Bendriouch, a recognised businessman from Rabat (the Moroccan town whose hospital Ismaïl Dlimi’s life hung by the thinnest of threads). On hearing the story, Mr Bendriouch was very moved and pledged his support for Ismaïl – his financial contribution is much appreciated and he is instrumental in saving this young boy.

“Professor Dreyfus was contacted and immediately called the cardiac team looking after Ismaïl in Morocco. After detailed discussions he gave us the full picture.”

Ismaïl was the victim of a rare illness, a form of myocardia, which prevented his heart from properly contracting. After his heart had twice failed, he had been put into an artificial coma.

The prognosis of Professor Dreyfus pulled no punches. The boy was heading towards almost certain death unless he could be moved safely to Europe, where doctors could be found who were equipped to deal with such a special and dangerous case.

Once there, three possible scenarios could play out:

1. The most pessimistic … nothing could be done to save Ismaïl.

2. Putting the boy on a life support machine, waiting and hoping for a donor heart suitable for transplanting to become available.

3. Trying a highly specialised treatment that would lead to remission and eventual recovery.

Without hesitation, Philippe Laïk said he would pay for Ismaïl to be flown to Monaco for treatment, and that he would underwrite the medical expenses in the Principality. But he was soon to find out that waving the magic wand of money would not be enough on its own to make this come to pass.

“There were some obstacles to be overcome, and time was a luxury we did not have,” says Philippe.

Ismail Dlimi and Prof DreyfusIsmaïl’s last check up before leaving for Monaco

Before he could travel, Ismaïl needed a passport. Philippe was on the phone to Morocco, alerting the highest in the land to the urgency of the situation. “I reminded everybody I spoke to that the life of a boy was at stake,” says Philippe.

His pleas fell on sympathetic royal ears, and the passport was delivered to the hospital in person by HRH Princess Lalla Fatima Zohra.

Meanwhile, Philippe and his wife Irina were seeking the help of ambassadors to rush through the visas that Ismaïl would need inside that precious passport. At the same time, they tracked down a private jet that could transport the boy with all the necessary medical support. The Monaco Croix Rouge also provided assistance.

Ismaïl arrived in Monaco still in an artificial coma. His condition was stabilised, and there followed a month of intensive care and treatment. Then just after his 12th birthday potential disaster struck: Ismaïl developed tachycardia – an irregular heartbeat. Fortunately this was rapidly cured by a doctor at Monaco’s Princess Grace Hospital.

Soon after this scare it started to emerge that Ismaïl was a lucky young man – it was the third of the options mentioned that worked, with no invasive surgery required.

Last December Ismaïl was able to return home, two big treats were waiting for him. The first an invitation to visit the Moroccan Royal Family, the second being able to return to his school, surrounded by friends and equipped with a tablette computer, a present from the Laïks.

Ismail Dlimi with TabletteIsmaïl was able to return to his school equipped with a tablet, a gift from Philippe Laïk, right

Philippe confides that he doesn’t want this happy ending to be a one-off.

“I was very moved and surprised at how, as the efforts to save Ismaïl progressed, more people became involved and it soon became what you might call a ‘chain of compassion’. This ‘chain’ stretched across different nationalities, languages, religions and educational systems, to save the life of one boy. It was inspiring.

“People asked me at the time ‘Why do you feel you have to do this? Are you Moroccan? Are you an Arab? Are you a Muslim?’

“I answered, ‘No, no and no. Like Ismaïl, I am a human being.”

Could this be the birth of a movement to unite and bind caring people into an organisation which could be called “Compassion Sans Frontières”? Watch this space.

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