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Nasser H.Al-Shaikh at the Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai. Dubai. Photo: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News Image Credit:

Dubai: An Emirati businessman has regained the sight in one eye after undergoing a cornea transplant at a Dubai hospital.

After nearly two and half years of observation looking for any sign of rejection, the visibly overjoyed man spoke to Gulf News exclusively last week on how the transplant has changed his life.

Nasser Al Shaikh, 48, chairman of an investment company in Dubai who underwent two failed corneal transplant in the last 30 years, heaved a sigh of relief when a surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital at the Dubai Health Care City finally provided him with a successful cornea transplant in 2017.

Al Shaikh told Gulf News: “I was dependent on vision only in my left eye and that too had astigmatism. My right eye which had a condition called Keratoconus damaged my cornea. My vision gradually faded and by 1988 I could only see very hazy figures.”

Al Shaikh, who had heard of cornea transplants in the UK, decided to visit Moorfields Eye Hospital in the UK for the earlier transplants. He underwent the first transplant in 1989 and later in 2009.

“After the first transplant, I felt great but due to not being vigilant about regular check-ups in a few months that transplant failed. The second transplant in 2009 failed within three weeks,” he added.

“After that I was dejected and thought of shelving the decision. But when I heard that I could undergo a transplant in Dubai and with international standards of expertise and hygiene, I decided to give it a third try. Dr Osama Giledi assessed me and cleared the transplant. Under his care I underwent the third transplant in June 2017. This time I was very careful and took care to come for periodical eye assessments, pressure checks and followed all instructions. I thank the Almighty for having restored my vision,” he said.

Describing the sheer joy of being able to see properly again, Al Shaikh said: “For a long time I was dependent only on my left eye for vision and my view was almost two-dimensional. It is difficult to quantify what it means to have vision in both eyes and get up every morning and see the world. I thank God for this wonderful gift.”

Al Shaikh added that he was happy to have got this facility in UAE. “That we have a world class facility here providing such transplants makes it so much easier. I would ask anyone looking to undergo a transplant to consider getting it done here, surrounded by loved ones as it is much easier for follow-ups as well.

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Left to Right, Dr Osama Giledi, Mbbxh, FRCSEd, Consultant Ophthalmologist and Nasser H.Al-Shaikh patient at the Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai. Dubai. Photo: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

What is Keratoconus?

Dr Osama Giledi consultant ophthalmologist and specialist in corneal transplant at Moorfields Eye Hospital, said: “Keratconus is a progressive thinning of the cornea which is the clear front window of the eye which along with the intraocular lens focuses light onto the retina. This disease which has strong genetic and part environmental reasons thins the cornea causing it to become irregular in shape and protruding from the eye resulting in blurry vision. It is fairly common condition in the Middle East. While there are some options available for treatment, in advanced stages only a cornea transplant can restore vision.”

Why a corneal transplant?

Dr Giledi further elaborated that a cornea transplant is needed when the cornea gets cloudy due to any disease or injury. Unlike some organs such as a liver or kidney which can be transplanted from live donors, organs such as heart and cornea can only be obtained from deceased donors and stored in organ banks for transplant into recipients. “The cornea is one of the few organs that did not require a tissue match or life time immunosuppressant drug therapy like in the case of other organ transplants,” said Dr Giledi. “It has virtually no blood vessels and there is no need to make tissue match. The only thing that has to be assured is that the cornea from the cadaver is extracted immediately and preserved well. We used a donor cornea from a cornea bank in the US in this case where the criteria for selection is very stringent and the screening is done very tightly. The donor cornea should not come from anyone with a history of any viral infections or eye surgeries.

“We extract the cornea in a circle and make a corresponding circular slit in the recipient’s eye and the cornea is sutured on,” added Dr Giledi. “The sutures remain for two years and once it gets integrated the sutures are removed gradually. In the case of Al Shaikh he now has a 6/9 vision in the right eye which is well within the permitted standards for driving license approval.”