Rose Mary Diaz
Dr Rafik Abu Samrah with Rose Mary Diaz (in ICU) and a friend. Image Credit: Supplied

  • Surgery changed two of patient's heart valves
  • A third, damaged by rheumatic heart disease, was also repaired
  • Rare, complicated surgery was carried out at Al Zahra Hospital, Sharjah

Dubai: After several years Jennifer Rose Diaz, 29, was able get a full night’s rest and speak to her mother in the Philippines, without gasping for breath.

On October 4, Diaz, who had been turned away by many hospitals, finally underwent a rare and complicated surgery at Al Zahra Hospital, Sharjah.

Dr Rafik Abu Samrah, consultant cardiologist conducted the life-changing surgery to change two of her heart valves and repair a third damaged by rheumatic heart disease.

A modest accountant and fifth of a family of six siblings, Diaz who works in Ras Al Khaimah was finding it difficult to lead a normal life.

“For as long as I can remember I have had a weak heart. It was getting worse each year," recalled Diaz speaking from the ward she was recently shifted to from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

"I was often breathless and had such severe palpitation that I could literally hear my heart hammering against my ribs."

She added: "This kept me awake at nights and very tired.“ 

Rheumatic heart disease

Explaining Diaz’s dire condition, Dr Abu Samrah said: “Jennifer may have had a rheumatic fever sometime ago. This usually starts with a streptococcus infection in the throat and rapidly moves to damage the heart muscle. In her case, the weak heart muscle condition was life-threatening.

"Normally, the space in the Mitral Valve of the heart is 2.5mm. In Jennifer’s case the space had shrunk to 0.5mm. In addition, two more valves had been damaged.


dirhams, cost of surgery to change 2 heart valves and repair a third one

"The patient could not lead a normal life and there was a threat of the valve shutting down, leading to heart failure, if the procedure was not carried out.”

Dr Abu Samrah also carried out ablation, a procedure to correct the heart rhythms to correct arrhythmia and sync left and right ventricles which were not working in tandem.

Expensive, high risk surgery

Diaz had given up on getting the surgery done.

“Other doctors and hospitals I visited told me that not only was the surgery very expensive costing over Dh260,000, it was also high risk, owing to pulmonary hypertension I suffered. All others refused to carry it out before I finally met Dr Abu Samrah who decided to take this risk.”

Things fell into place very soon after Dr Abu Samrah’s decision to do the surgery.

Al Zahra management agreed to bear half of the expenditure.

Diaz’ insurance agreed to foot Dh80,000, while she raised Dh50,000 through friends and loans.

Insurance, friends, loans

The hospital paid Dh130,000 as their contribution.

Diaz who is recovering was able to enjoy a good night’s sleep on the very first night after surgery.

“I am still weak, but I was able to sleep like a baby throughout my stay in hospital. I am no longer breathless or palpitating and gaining my strength every day. I look forward to being discharged and resuming work in a few weeks.”