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Family to seek Italian citizenship for severely disabled five-year-old

PUBLISHED: 17:00 16 October 2019

Tafida's parents Shelina Begum and Mohammed Raqeeb. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Tafida's parents Shelina Begum and Mohammed Raqeeb. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

The mother of severely disabled youngster Tafida Raqeeb, who was transferred from a Whitechapel hospital to Italy for continued life-support treatment, has said she is seeking Italian citizenship for her daughter.

Five-year-old Tafida Raqeeb suffered a brain injury. Picture: Raqeeb familyFive-year-old Tafida Raqeeb suffered a brain injury. Picture: Raqeeb family

A High Court judge ruled earlier this month that the five-year-old girl could be moved from the Royal London Hospital to the Gaslini children's hospital in Genoa.

She was taken by chartered plane to Italy on Tuesday, October 15, and her parents appeared beside the hospital's director at a press conference today (Wednesday, October 16).

Shelina Begum thanked the hospital for "believing in my daughter's recovery" and said the transfer was "extremely smooth".

"I visited Tafida this morning, she is stable, she was awake, fully awake, turning her head from side to side. I told her that mummy and daddy are here and the whole family are coming," she said.

Tafida Raqeeb's parents Mohammed Raqeeb and Shelina Begum (centre) at an official welcome outside the Gaslini Hospital in Genoa. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA WireTafida Raqeeb's parents Mohammed Raqeeb and Shelina Begum (centre) at an official welcome outside the Gaslini Hospital in Genoa. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

She added: "I just believe that since Tafida is in Italy it will be wise for her to have Italian citizenship."

She said the family are crowdfunding for Tafida's treatment but the money "should not run out".

"We do have financial sponsors in place. Should we not be able to raise the funds then the financial sponsors will come in and pay for the treatment."

She said she did not want to disclose how much the hospital is charging.

An ambulance carrying Tafida Raqeeb, five, leaves Genoa Airport in Italy as she is transported to the city's Gaslini children's hospital. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA WireAn ambulance carrying Tafida Raqeeb, five, leaves Genoa Airport in Italy as she is transported to the city's Gaslini children's hospital. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

"My hope for Tafida would be to see her improve every day, something that she has been doing in the last eight months," she added.

Ms Begum said she was grateful to the "nurses in the UK who have also done an amazing job looking after Tafida" and to the public for the "love and support and warmth they have shown to Tafida".

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She said she feels "emotionally drained", adding: "I'm sure everyone knows that Tafida was a very happy, bubbly child before February, and in February our lives have actually been turned upside down.

"She wasn't born unwell, she wasn't born with a condition, this thing just suddenly happened."

Tafida's mother and her father, Mohammed Raqeeb, of Upton Park, had said life-support treatment should continue and they should be allowed to move their daughter to a hospital of their choice.

Bosses at the Royal London Hospital disagreed.

Specialists at the hospital said further treatment would be futile because the youngster had permanent brain damage, was in a minimally conscious state and had no chance of recovery.

Mr Justice MacDonald ruled in favour of Tafida's parents after analysing evidence at a High Court trial in London.

They said they thought she had a "quality of life".

They said they wanted to take Tafida to a country where she would keep getting life-support treatment and where doctors' views on quality of life were in line with their own.

Lawyers representing Royal London Hospital bosses told Mr Justice MacDonald that blood vessels in Tafida's brain were "tangled up".

They said the youngster could not swallow, taste, see, breathe for herself, or "experience touch" in large parts of her body.

The judge was told that all doctors asked for an opinion, including Italian medics and a specialist at Great Ormond Street in London, agreed that Tafida would never come off a ventilator and would always need artificial assistance.

He heard that specialist doctors thought Tafida was "beyond experience".

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