LONDON: The look on his face as he walked out of baby Ainul Mardhiah Ahmad Safiuddin’s room said it all.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was visibly touched by the resilience and fighting spirit of the 9-month-old baby who had gone through so much since birth after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer known as Germ Cell Tumour.
A week ago, after being flown from Malaysia to London for the possible removal of the 200g growth in her mouth, Ainul Mardhiah, who has won the hearts of doctors and nurses at the local hospital here, can now smile and attempts to communicate with her visitors.
For someone who never has problems answering any question, when told that he was visibly touched, Dr Mahathir had to take his time to answer, probably reflecting on how much the baby had suffered during the past nine months.
She was born prematurely, then at 3 months old was diagnosed with the rare form of cancer, had her first operation, and then chemotherapy.
But the aggressive nature of the cancer saw the growth come back, and with a vengeance, so much so that it threatened to “take over” her tiny little face.
Normal is not a word to use to describe her young life, nor that of her parents, Ahmad Safiuddin Ahmad Razak and Nurul Erwani Zaidi, both 24.
“Who would not have been touched... this is a miracle,” Dr Mahathir said, after a long, awkward silence, with pain and concern etched on his face.
“I hope she will recover fully and she will regain her own weight and become (like) an ordinary person again. We, who have been born without any problems, should be thankful.
“We don’t know if anything like this could happen to us. I believe that her parents did not expect this to happen and also did not expect that she would be brought to London to be operated on. All this is God’s will.”
The prime minister, hands sanitised and sleeves rolled up for the visit to Ainul Mardhiah’s room, spent a while looking at her and only then proceeded to ask the attending doctor as well as the little one’s parents about her progress.
“I am amazed how she had suffered so much and had undergone so many procedures, then came here thousands of miles away to be operated on successfully. This is not an ordinary thing. This is extraordinary.
“The growth came from inside her mouth. This rarely happens... she was born with the growth. The doctors and surgeons here have successfully removed the growth.
“Even though she has yet to be able to eat and needs a trachea tube to breathe, to me, this is a miracle. With modern-day technology and surgery, this growth was successfully removed. I pray that she will recover and lead a normal life,” he said.
Dr Mahathir, who was accompanied by his daughter Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and Malaysian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Datuk Mohamad Sadik Kethergany, was introduced to the medical staff of the hospital on arrival.
Present during his brief but meaningful visit were Dr Juling Ong, a craniofacial and paediatric plastic surgeon who was one of four doctors who took part in the five-hour operation to remove the tumour on June 10, and Dr Nur Amalina Che Bakri, the trainee surgeon at a London hospital who started the ball rolling in bringing Ainul Mardhiah to the UK.
Also present were two Malaysian anaesthetists, Dr Fahja Ismail and Dr Najmiah Ahmad, as well as lecturer Dr Sharifah Faridah Syed Alwi, who had been instrumental in assisting the young parents with emotional and practical support.
“I congratulate the doctors who carried out this operation,” Dr Mahathir told Dr Ong, who hails from Penang.
He also commended Malaysians for their generosity which enabled the infant to be flown to the UK.
The visit to the hospital to see Ainul Mardhiah, an unexpected one, wrapped up the prime minister’s three-day working visit to the UK.
Ainul Mardhiah’s parents, who had been introduced to the prime minister the day before during the Hari Raya Open house at the high commissioner’s residence, said
they were happy and at the same time touched by the visit and concern shown by Dr Mahathir.
“This is a very meaningful day for us. We are so happy,” said Safiuddin.
Nurul Erwani added that when the prime minister entered the room, he looked at Ainul Mardhiah “for a long time”.
“From the look on his face, you could see that he was concerned and moved by Ainul’s fighting spirit. He asked about her progress and about other treatments. He was so concerned,” she said.
The young mother was visibly overwhelmed by the visit but happy to report that baby Ainul was showing much progress having been moved to the normal ward and now off the ventilator.
“She is trying to communicate, loves being held and will cry when we put her down, and loves tugging on her ear,” she said, adding that she hoped that their little baby would soon learn how to crawl and walk like any other child.
For now, for Nurul Erwani and Safiuddin, Ainul’s special visitor will be one of the meaningful episodes that they will one day narrate to their child and tell her how extraordinary she is.