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Dubai resident Fatima Rashid, who underwent a kidney transplant earlier this year. Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

Dubai: To many people, the definition of organ donation is the process of giving one’s own organs and or tissues to save another person who needs them due to a medical condition, injury or organ failure.

But not to Dubai resident Fatima Rashid, 43. “I define organ donation as the ultimate gift that I have received ever,” Fatima, mother to a nine-year-old, told Gulf News as she marked the World Organ Donation Day on August 13.

A chronic kidney disease (CKD) survivor, Fatima, A Bangladeshi expat, received a new lease of life with a kidney transplant in Dubai earlier this year. She had learned about her CKD 10 years ago, at the same time when she learned that she was pregnant.

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Recalling her journey, she said: “On January 10 this year, I got what most transplant recipients call “THAT CALL” from the hospital which basically was my last shot at having some chance to return to a semblance of my previous self.”

Having known for the entire past decade that this day could come, she said she had done everything in her capacity to avoid a transplant.

2. Fatima Rashid, who once hesitated to receive a kidney, is now an advocate of organ donation after a kidney transplant in January gave her a new lease of life.-1691901701645
Fatima Rashid, who resisted receiving a kidney for a long time, is now a strong advocate for organ donation after undergoing a successful kidney transplant. Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

“I changed my lifestyle around completely. This did help delay the complete failure of my organs, but due to an Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) I suffered in 2022, my condition worsened, and I had to be placed on the waitlist for a kidney.”

Fact is kidney disease is the fastest growing non-communicable disease which globally affects more than 10 per cent of the general population worldwide.

To put that into simple perspective, it is one of the top 10 causes of death. As it is increasing in prevalence, the global burden of CKD is becoming a major public health problem in the form of an epidemic in many countries.

True blessing

Organ donation and transplantation can be a life-saving procedure for an organ recipient, said Fatima.

“Since my surgery, a lot of people around me started realising what a true blessing it is, not just for me, but for them to be able to help someone in need, just like me. They have all signed up to become organ donors: To be able to make a difference to not just the patient, but their families too. It’s amazing how one donor can save eight lives and enhance those of 75 people!”

Fatima said, “Even in my religion, we are told whoever saves a life is as though he has saved all of mankind. Being able to be with my family and make memories and play with my child, I cannot be ever more indebted for this gift I carry in me.”

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Fatima Rashid makes it a point to lead an active life and is very particular about what she eats and how much of exercise she does. Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

Fatima says there are many emotional moments that will live within her forever. “I’m always ever so grateful to the kind soul and their family who agreed to give this gift forward. Believe me, not a day passes without my prayers going to this soul. This gift is so precious that I’m humbled that I have been destined to have it.”

Normal to be apprehensive

She said some people also confided in her about their concerns about organ donation.

“I thought it was very normal because no one talks about their fears often, and it is normal to be apprehensive. As far as medical processes go, the organ harvesting process is as medical and dignified as all surgeries go. In fact, the honour bestowed on donors is the highest. They are called ‘superheroes’ for their last heroic act. I still get teary-eyed when I watch or read articles about donors’ experiences.”

Fact is you are more likely to be an organ recipient in this life than an organ donor.

“I’m talking about my experience because talking about organ donation is not common. It is important to know that it is never compulsory to donate, and you have the right to refuse should you feel so. But if you ever choose to donate, you’re donating not just a part of you, but you’re gifting someone a chance at life. A part of you will live in them and will continue. You leave a legacy of life.”

How to be a donor?

Urging everyone to consider the noble act, she said: “If you wish to pledge your legacy to mark World Organ Donation Day 2023, please follow the link to Hayat on the website of the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP).

As part of the National Programme for Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation, MoHAP launched Hayat, a registry of national donors.

Since 2017, when deceased organ donation became federally recognised, Hayat has coordinated donations that saved around 500 lives.

UAE residents can become a donor or transplant recipient regardless of his or her nationality. The Hayat registry is linked to each individual’s Emirates ID. Residents can register through the dedicated Hayat website or app, which are available through MoHAP platforms.