Tawfiq Ahmad
Tawfiq Ahmad with his parents. Ahmad received the kidney from a deceased 6-year-old girl. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: In a groundbreaking procedure in the capital, a kidney of a six-year-old brain-dead patient has successfully been transplanted into a 15-year-old boy with kidney failure.

The procedure, which was undertaken at the Shaikh Khalifa Medical City, gave a new lease of life to Tawfiq Ahmad, a Grade 11 student born with only one kidney that was also abnormally developed.

“My son’s one kidney had been failing for a while, and he has been on the transplant list for nearly two years. When we got the call that an organ was available, it felt like a godsend, especially when my son turned out to be a perfect match,” Sulaiman Shah Mohammad, 57, Ahmad’s father and an electrician from India, told Gulf News.

In a first for the hospital, the donor was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital, with the transplant team springing into action when the patient was identified as brain-dead.

One kidney was transplanted into Ahmad, while another was used for a transplantation at the Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital in Dubai, said Dr Mohammad Bader Zaman, division chief for general, vascular and transplant surgery at the hospital. The donor’s liver was also transported to Dammam for transplantation into another paediatric recipient.

“Since 2008, a total of 39 kidneys have been transplanted into paediatric patients. Of these, eight procedures have involved deceased donors. But this case was unique because it was the first time that a patient at the hospital had been identified as a donor,” Dr Zaman said.

“Since the UAE’s laws facilitating organ transplants from deceased donors, the number of such procedures has been on the rise. But they also require readiness on the part of ICU physicians to keep the organs viable, and trained transplant coordination teams to support the donor family in a time of crisis. [This procedure was a successful demonstration],” he added.

Regular dialysis

Prior to the transplant, Ahmad’s kidney function had declined to just five per cent.

His nephrologist, Dr Eihab Al Khasawneh, consultant paediatric nephrologist, said he would have required regular dialysis within the year. Ahmad’s growth has also been stunted, and he was suffering from anaemia as a result of kidney damage.

“We were always so worried about him that we wouldn’t let him do much. Every month, I would drive him from our home in Umm Al Quwain to the Shaikh Khalifa Medical City for a check-up, and we always hoped he would get a new kidney,” Mohammad said.

Ahmad is still hospitalised at the moment, but Dr Zaman said he should soon be discharged. According to Dr Al Khasawneh, the transplant should also help resolve Ahmad’s other medical concerns.

“My son is excited to have a chance at a normal life. He also hopes to become a successful businessman one day, so I am tremendously grateful to the UAE leadership and the devoted doctors and transplant coordinators who have helped him get this far,” Mohammad said.

One donor can save eight lives

If organs are kept viable upon brain death, every healthy organ donor can save up to eight lives, said Dr Mohammad Badar Zaman, division chief for general, vascular and transplant surgery at the Shaikh Khalifa Medical City. This is because each donor can provide two kidneys, two lungs, a heart, a liver and a pancreas to ailing patients with failing organs.

Kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs worldwide, as in the UAE.

Social awareness

Facilitating an organ donation from a grieving family can be a particularly tricky procedure, and social awareness is key to ensuring that families are willing to donate organs, an Intensive Care Unit specialist has said.

Dr Manivachagan Natarajan, who helped identify the organ donor for Tawfiq Ahmad’s transplant, said the family in this case was particularly willing to help save other lives at a time of great grief and difficulty.

“They had just lost a six-year-old and it was possibly the most difficult thing they had ever faced. But they agreed to have the organs harvested. Fortunately, with the UAE’s laws on organ donation, people are ready to donate, and more social awareness can only help enable future procedures,” he said.