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Tafida Raqeeb: Brain-damaged girl arrives in Italy

Mohammed Raqeeb and Shelina Begum (centre), the parents of Tafida Raqeeb, Image copyright Press Association
Image caption Mohammed Raqeeb and Shelina Begum (centre) were given an official welcome outside Gaslini paediatric hospital

A brain-damaged girl has arrived in Italy after her parents won a High Court battle to take her abroad for treatment.

Five-year-old Tafida Raqeeb had been on life support at the Royal London Hospital since suffering a traumatic brain injury in February.

Health bosses had tried to block attempts to take her to the Gaslini children's hospital in Genoa.

Her mother said she was seeking Italian citizenship for her daughter.

Shelina Begum and her husband Mohammed Raqeeb, from Newham, east London, were met outside the hospital in an official welcome organised by CitizenGo Italy, a community organisation which paid for Tafida's transfer.

Dr Andrea Moscatelli is head of intensive care at Gaslini children's hospital and said what Tafida needs is time.

"We don't know if we can make her improve but if we optimise the support of the vital function we might give her the opportunity for a spontaneous recovery.

"Maybe just a little bit. Even if we find it very unlikely because the brain injury is devastating," he said.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Specialists at the Royal London Hospital believe Tafida Raqeeb has no chance of recovery

At a press conference, Mrs Begum thanked the hospital for "believing in my daughter's recovery".

"I visited Tafida this morning, she is stable, she was awake, fully awake, turning her head from side to side," she said

"I am feeling emotionally drained. I think I will burst into tears very soon."

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

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Tafida was transferred by air ambulance via Genoa's Cristoforo Colombo airport

Mrs Begum said the family was crowdfunding for Tafida's treatment but added it had sponsors in place and the money "should not run out".

UK specialists had previously argued any further treatment of Tafida, who suffered a brain haemorrhage, would be futile.

Bosses at Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital in Whitechapel, had said ending Tafida's life support was in her best interests.

Analysis

By Fergus Walsh, BBC health correspondent in Genoa

The treatment in Genoa is centred on keeping Tafida alive.

But doctors here say although Tafida has suffered devastating brain damage they cannot rule out some small spontaneous recovery in the months ahead.

Dr Andrea Moscatelli denied his team was giving Tafida's parents false hope.

The Genoa medical team told the High Court they did not foresee any therapies that might improve Tafida's neurological condition.

But doctors now intend to give Tafida a tracheostomy - meaning she'll have a tube inserted in her windpipe, connected to a ventilator - which will hopefully allow her to be cared for at home by her parents.

Tafida - deemed by the High Court to have minimal awareness and being unable to feel pain - has a sleep-wake cycle and opens and closes her eyes.

Doctors in London had argued it was near-impossible for Tafida to derive any benefit from continued life and she should be allowed the "dignity of dying peacefully".

Tafida's parents, both practising Muslims, argued Islamic law said only God could take the decision to end her life.

The High Court ruled on 3 October there was no justification to stop the child being taken abroad.

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