Tafida Raqeeb’s mum reassured daughter of their ‘new beginning’ on way to life-saving treatment in Italy

A POLICEMAN outside the hospital stepped forward and pulled a single pink rose from inside his tunic.

With tears in his eyes, he whispered: “For the bambino Inglese and her mama.”

Dan Charity – The Sun

Tafida Raqeeb’s mother Shelina Begum reveals she feared the worst while on the flight carrying her daughter to an Italian hospital[/caption]

Dan Charity – The Sun

When Tafida woke up, her mother Shelina says she comforted her and told her this is a ‘new beginning’[/caption]

At that moment Shelina Begum finally realised her brain-damaged daughter Tafida Raqeeb, the five-year-old at the centre of a legal battle with the NHS to keep her alive, was safe.

“I said to her, ‘Tafida, this is a new place, a new beginning’,” said Shelina.

“I knew if I could get her to Italy she would have the chance to live. I used to think doctors were second only to God. That belief was shattered when I was told by the NHS that saving my daughter was ‘futile’.”

Tafida had a rare condition, known as an AVM, which caused a massive bleed inside her head in February.

She was on life support at the Royal London Hospital in East London since suffering the brain injury, and health bosses tried to block attempts to take the little girl to the Gaslini children’s hospital in Genoa.

Today Shelina and her husband Mohammed share with Sun readers the inside story of Operation Tafida, the mercy flight that this week had the world watching and praying.

Our exclusive pictures, taken by her relieved parents, show Tafida staring at her mum on the intensive care ward at Gaslini.

As doctors carried out a series of tests on the little girl, Shelina gently explained to her: “We have come to Italy, Tafida, where your journey begins. The people here will make you better.”


Shelina, who turned 40 on Thursday, added: “I’m sure it won’t be long before we can get her out of bed and into a wheelchair and begin to stimulate her brain by showing her new things.

“All she has seen since she first became ill is a hospital ceiling.

“The most important thing for me is that all the nurses and doctors here are so positive.

“Tafida’s story has been carried on the news in Italy for weeks and it seems everyone knows who she is and wishes us well.

“I know I am leaving my family behind and it will be a completely different way of life for us, but I also know in my heart that this is where she will begin to get better.

“I always said that the miracle would come if she was given time. Here, she has time to improve.

“We can wait as long as it takes. I have the best present I could ever wish for here in this hospital. The doctors are so positive and are willing her to get better.

“A massive weight has been lifted from our shoulders.”

Scans of Tafida’s vital organs taken in the last few days by medics in the intensive care ward show her heart and lungs have not suffered from spending eight months on life support in London.


In the coming days she will have a tracheostomy operation that will free her from being attached to a machine. She will no longer have to have a breathing tube in her nose.

Her dad Mohammed said: “This journey to Italy has given us hope, hope that Tafida will have the best life that we can give her. We are convinced that with the treatment available at the Gaslini hospital, Tafida will improve dramatically in the coming weeks and months.”

He praised his wife, a solicitor, for directing the court battle against the NHS.

Mohammed, 45, a construction consultant, said: “Nobody expected us to win. But we did and she is now in a place where she will be looked after and her life cherished.” The Italian doctors believe that what Tafida needs most is time for the brain to repair itself.

While many of the medics at the Gaslini have worked in the NHS and speak good English, Genoa is not a major tourist area.

Mohammed, who like Shelina does not speak any Italian, has been communicating with locals through a translation app on his phone to buy food and supplies for their stay.

Simon Jones – The Sun

Little Tafida leaves Biggin Hill airport for the specialist children’s hospital in Italy[/caption]

Simon Jones – The Sun

Tafida is set to undergo a tracheostomy operation that will free free her from being attached to a machine[/caption]

Dan Charity – The Sun

Tafida and her mother arrived at Genoa Airport and were transported to the Gaslini Childrens hospital for further treatment[/caption]

Tomorrow, some of their family will fly in to visit Tafida and the following week her 14-year-old brother will stay there for half-term.

Since June, the family was locked in a battle with doctors at the Royal London Hospital, in Whitechapel, who wanted to turn off their daughter’s life support machine.

But two weeks ago they won a landmark case at the High Court when a judge decided they could take their daughter to Italy.

After days of planning, the mercy flight to collect Tafida almost did not get off the ground because Genoa was hit by torrential rain and gale-force winds.

But just before lunchtime on Tuesday, a Lear jet air ambulance from Italy finally landed at Biggin Hill airfield in Kent.

Dr Andrea Moscatelli, director of the Gaslini’s neonatal department, Stefano Pezzato, an expert in resuscitation, and nurse Monica Faggiolo, a specialist in mercy flights, took a private ambulance to the Royal London Hospital, which is run by Barts NHS Trust, to get Tafida.


On the sixth-floor ward where she had been confined to her bed, the Italian medical team prepared her for the two-hour flight to Genoa.

Barts Trust chief medical officer Dr Alistair Chesser said: “This has been a difficult few months for everyone involved.

“I pay tribute to our staff for maintaining high standards of care with the utmost professionalism throughout this period. I am also grateful to the Gaslini team for their co-operation and skill in managing the transfer. Above all, we wish Tafida and her family well for the future.”

Mohammed had said his goodbyes on Monday night and was already on a scheduled flight to Genoa with four huge cases packed with enough children’s clothes for the six-month stay and dozens of toys from well-wishers.

On the plane he flicked through dozens of photos of his daughter before and after her illness. One of his favourites is a picture taken in the snow the year before outside their home in Plaistow, East London.

Shelina finally left the hospital at 2.15pm on Tuesday without even being able to properly thank the nurses who had cared for her daughter round the clock.

She was in a car with family, including her 14-year-old son.


On the tarmac at Biggin Hill, Shelina was reunited with her daughter, who was already on board the plane. She said: “Tafida was laying on a stretcher looking around her at everything that was going on.”

Two hours later the jet appeared out of the sunset above Genoa’s Christopher Columbus airport and landed. As the plane taxied towards a huddle of waiting dignitaries, Mohammed was whisked to the plane in a minibus.

Delighted to see his daughter safely on Italian soil, he left it to the medics to transfer her to a waiting Red Cross ambulance.

Tafida was already in bed when Shelina and Mohammed later walked into the intensive care ward.

A large group of hospital staff, including the ambulance men in their red suits, stood outside the door like expectant parents waiting for news. Shelina said: “She was fully awake, looking around, thinking ‘Where am I?’.”

The future is still uncertain as the family face medical bills of £300,000 on top of court costs of £180,000. Their appeal for funding has so far raised £53,000.

Tafida will stay at the Gaslini for at least six months, receiving the latest rehabilitation techniques to get her body moving again while, hopefully, her brain heals itself.

Her parents will soon be taking their daughter outside to enjoy the warmth of the sun.

Mohammed said: “A new chapter has begun for all of us, with hopefully a happy ending when we can take her home.”

Dan Charity – The Sun

Shelina Begum and Mohammed Raqeeb pictured with supporters after their press conference at the Gaslini Hospital in Genoa, Italy[/caption]

Dan Charity – The Sun

NHS doctors at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel wanted to turn off Tafida’s life support machine[/caption]


(Visited 5 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply