Birmingham woman, 35, in last-ditch effort to save life as multiple sclerosis ‘ravages body’

The memories seem a lifetime ago. The carefree days when Hiba Egal loved dancing and socialising with former school friends.

With each day, they fade a little more. With each day, the tide of anger rises a little more in the 35-year-old’s frail body.

Hiba should be preparing for her reunion with classmates at Broadway School, in Aston, Birmingham. The former translator – she speaks three languages – should be helping her 17-year-old daughter, Tasnim, prepare for vital exams.

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But Hiba, from Ladywood, has new friends now. They are mostly elderly and share her new accommodation, Grassmere Residental Care Home in Washwood Heath.

Staff are kind and attentive, they cannot do enough for their young resident. But they cannot rinse clean the bitterness that blights Hiba’s every hour.

Hiba Egal is currently in Grassmere Residental Care Home in Washwood Heath

She is, she states angrily, a young woman in an “old folk’s home”. She is a young woman in an old folk’s home waiting to die.
The home, however, has stressed it cares for individuals of all ages.

She accepts her condition is too complex for home visit carers. For Hiba, born in Somalia but a Birmingham resident since 2000, multiple sclerosis has ravaged her body with savage swiftness.

Diagnosed in 2017 after she suffered tingling in her arms and “began to walk funny”, Hiba is now wheelchair-bound and incontinent.

She does not want to see her daughter, cared for by one of three sisters in Birmingham. She does not want Tasnim’s schoolwork to be stained by what her mother has become.

Her mother and siblings are supportive, but do not understand what MS has done to her body, she insists. Who really can?

Hiba has not picked up the terrible hand fate delivered with stoicism. She is a young woman who speaks about death with an uncomfortable matter-of-factness.

Hiba Egal is currently in Grassmere Residental Care Home in Washwood Heath

She says she has already “made arrangements”. She has contacted an assisted dying clinic in Switzerland.

“It’ll cost between £7,000 and £8,000, which will take a lot of saving,” she told me, with the detachment of someone discussing plans for a new fitted kitchen. “But I have no intention of spending the next 10 years of my life bedbound and staring at four grey walls.”

Hiba attempted to take her own life last November and spent months in Edgbaston’s Queen Elizabeth as a result of the injuries sustained. She has resided at the care home since February.

“I did a lot of damage to myself,” Hiba admitted. “I was found in a bad state in my home. I survived it. The reason I did it is because my body is decaying, I can’t do anything and I’m getting worse.

“I won’t do it again, it was too messy.”

After a silence, she admitted: “I have an exit plan.

“My sisters visit, my mother calls, but I don’t think they understand the disease. They tell me to try and get better, but I can’t do anything. I haven’t seen my daughter for a while because of my condition. I don’t want her to see me like this. Anyway, what can I do for her like this?

“I think it would’ve been more acceptable to be diagnosed with a terminal illness, I could rationalise a terminal illness. I can’t rationalise this disease.

“There is nothing you can do. I can’t even go to the toilet. Tell me, what is there to make the most of? You have this chronic fatigue that doesn’t go away. It would be much easier for someone to tell you you have terminal cancer because I could then process that information and make plans.

“I’m angry, I’m upset. I feel God has done something to my body that I can’t control. I don’t know why She has done this to me.
“Here (the care home), there is one girl who is 35 in a wheelchair. The majority are elderly. I am with them, waiting to die. The staff are very helpful and kind, but I’m not happy.”

Hiba Egal is currently in Grassmere Residental Care Home in Washwood Heath

Hibal spent her early years in Holland before coming to Birmingham. “I used to like listening to music, going dancing, socialising,” she said.

She began suffering symptoms in 2015 and received the bombshell diagnosis five years ago. “They’re organising a school reunion and I would’ve loved to be there, but that’s not going to happen,” she shrugged.

Hiba longs to walk again and clutches one, faint hope. It is a hope that rests in Panama.

There, she has learnt, she can receive a revolutionary stem cell procedure that may provide the miracle she craves.
It is beyond a long shot.

But it is a shot. And hope brings determination. Hiba’s determination is currently running on empty.

Schoolfriends have rallied, donating to a gofundme page. For Hiba, hope comes with a price tag of around £70,000.

On the gofundme page, she says: “Hi, I’m Hiba. I have multiple sclerosis primary progressive. I’m bed-bound and I’m double incontinent. I have to be hoisted into a wheelchair.

“I’m living in a care home because I’m so severely disabled. I’m the youngest there at 35. I can’t take care of myself. I need two carers at all times, I’m receiving 24-hour care.

“I’m raising funds for umbilical cord stems cells in Panama. I need three treatments to be independent and walk again – one treatment is £19,000, plus the carers to hoist me there. Please help me regain my independence again and live back in the community.”

Hiba told me: “I would really love to go to my school reunion in August. If I get the treatment, maybe I could.”
After a silence, reality kicked in. “But I know it’s doubtful,” she added.

To donate, go to:
A spokesman for Grassmere Care Home pointed out there are currently residents younger than Hiba.

He said: “She is a very popular resident and highly intelligent. We will support Hiba in her fight for any support she needs.”

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