Abu Dhabi: The father of two Emirati boys who received successful heart transplants earlier this year has said that there is a great need for more transplant centres in the UAE in order to give patients another shot at life.
Sultan Al Yahyee’ sons, who were born with a severe form of familial cardiomyopathy, or chronic heart muscle disease, received heart transplants in India. Four months on, Hamad, 19, and Mohammad, 17, are going strong. Should they get through a whole year without too many episodes of organ rejection, they can look forward to leading happy lives for many more years, experts have said.
“Having lost an older son to this condition, I cannot express the joy of knowing that my other two sons are better now. We’ve looked everywhere for a solution to the cardiomyopathy, and tried so many different treatments till now, but we didn’t dare hope for good health until the transplants,” Al Yahyee said in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. He was addressing a press conference as Hamad and Mohammad sat smilingly by him.
“Given the top-notch health care in the UAE, there should be more transplant centres to serve patients close to home,” he added.
As reported by Gulf News in June, Hamad and Mohammad underwent cadaver heart transplants at Gleneagles Hospital in the Indian city of Chennai. International recipients like them are granted organs if there are no local recipients, and Hamad received a heart from a 23-year-old patient. Mohammad, on the other hand, was granted a transplant from a 17-year-old brain-dead patient.
A successful heart transplant has not been performed in the UAE till date. The transplant cost for each international patient, which includes the cost of chartering jets to retrieve the donor heart and arrange for green corridors, is about $70,000 (Dh257,000).
As Al Yahyee clarified, all his 10 children were born with the heart condition, and an older son passed away in 2013 when there were no donors. Hamad himself suffered heart failure and liver shock when he was rushed to Gleneagles in February.
Both the transplants took place in March, and each procedure lasted about five hours. Since then, the brothers have been prescribed immunosuppressant medication to prevent organ rejection, said Dr Sandeep Attawar, programme director and chair of cardiac sciences and thoracic organ transplants at Gleneagles.
“The patients are young and, in a way, transplant torchbearers. Through close monitoring, we can say that they have not yet had any episodes of heart rejection, which is heartening to see. They also live in the UAE, where there is very little chance of cross-infection, limited pollution, and strict food and water safety, so I would say that they can truly harness the benefits of a transplant,” Dr Attawar said.
Hamad had said earlier that he planned to pursue a degree in interior design, while Mohammad wishes to complete his schooling.
Al Yahyee also has another younger son, and Dr Attawar said that his cardiomyopathy is still asymptomatic. “Based on my investigation, the disease seems to become symptomatic in the male children of the family till the late teens. His daughters, however, have so far had little or no symptoms regardless of their age,” the doctor said.
Burjeel Hospital to offer transplants by end of year
A second private hospital in Abu Dhabi, Burjeel Hospital, is expected to open up its transplant centre by the end of the year, a top doctor told Gulf News on Sunday.
The unit already has the required infrastructure and a number of international experts have already visited it, said Dr Yassin Al Shahat, chief medical officer at the hospital.
“For the benefit of patients, the UAE needs multiple organ transplant centres. Till date, only the Shaikh Khalifa Medical City [a government hospital] and the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi have performed kidney transplants, but there have to be more such facilities,” Dr Al Shahat said.
“When we open, we hope to facilitate all kinds of transplants at our centre,” he added.
The doctor added that he expects kidney transplants to be the most commonly sought procedure at the unit, followed by liver, bone marrow and heart transplants respectively.