A popular veterinary surgeon in Dubai, who has saved the lives of thousands of pets - many of them free of charge - over the last three decades is now struggling to get his own illness treated.
Dr Matt Pietrak, a Polish expat who runs the Desert Veterinary Clinic in Dubai, suffered a relapse of cancer this April and ever since has been grappling to pay for his chemotherapy sessions.
Admitted to a public hospital, the 61-year-old who has served Dubai Municipality and Dubai Zoo said he was first diagnosed with colon cancer in 2012 but managed to turn the corner with help from friends. But just when he thought the worst was over, he was diagnosed with a relapse – this time with a form of lymphoma – for which he has been prescribed six cycles of chemotherapy.
“I am in dire straits,” said Dr Pietrak who has been unable to attend the clinic, his only source of income, since April. “I somehow paid for the first session and a friend paid for the second. But I do not know how I will fund the rest of the treatment.
The long-serving community doctor, who came to Dubai in 1988, has been known for his big-heartedness as he caters to different sections of society. “Many pet owners came to us because they could not afford the high-end clinics. We never threw any pet out. If the pet owner did not have money to pay, we would wait for it, give him credit or not charge at all.
But today, I myself could do with some support. My cancer is easy to treat but it is very expensive. Unfortunately, I do not have any insurance.”
A father of two boys, Dr Pietrak said his family was completely dependent on him. “My boys study in Europe and my wife Isabella assists me at the clinic and grooms pets. I just have to get out of the hospital and back to work at the earliest.”
Those who have regularly used the doctor’s services vouch for him.
Shazzie Hoss, a single mum in Dubai, said: “He is an excellent doctor and genuinely cares for the animals. I still remember how I had 11 strays with me at one time and wanted to get them neutred and vaccinated. It was an expensive proposition. But he saved me the trip to his clinic and came to where the cats were and charged me for just one cat. Very few doctors would do that. While in hospital, he can not make any money and there is a chance that he can lose the clinic if he doesn’t get the help he needs.”