Dubai: Dubai Health Authority’s (DHA’s) extensive campaign to raise awareness on kidney disease and transplantation in the UAE, launched in March, has reaped rich benefits.
It has not only served to remind people about pledging their organs and attracting more traffic to the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) organ donation portal, Hayat, but has also resulted in saving lives of those battling kidney diseases, and those on the waiting list for organ transplants.
Hundreds of transplants
Speaking to Gulf News, Nujood AlKhloofi, the National Transplant Coordinator in MoHAP’s National Transplant Committee, which is a member in DHA’s Supervisory Committee for Organ Donation and Transplantation, provided an estimate on the number of organs transplanted so far.
“Ever since the organ donation and transplantation law was established to include deceased organ donation in 2016, Dubai has conducted more than 40 kidney transplants from both deceased and living donors, and in the entire UAE there have been transplants of more than 200 different vital organs from deceased donors,” AlKhaloofi said.
Kidney disease on the rise
Among all organs, it is the kidney that is the most commonly transplanted organ and Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is on the rise due to a higher incidence of diabetes, hypertension and other metabolic disorders that affect a major section of the UAE population and have a direct impact on kidney health.
Take the case of Reeza Babu, a 36-year old ICU nurse at the Mediclinic City Hospital, who recently received a deceased donor’s kidney in February after struggling with kidney disease for more than 14 years. The nurse and her family are thrilled with this gift of life. Reeza now plans to resume work soon and give back to patients through her hard work.
Having been diagnosed with CKD at the age of 24, Reeza, who was placed under strict isolation for a period of three months following her transplant, recounted her story.
“I have been battling kidney disease since the age of 24. I was just out of college, I collapsed one day and following tests, the doctors discovered that nearly 70 per cent of my kidney function had been damaged. I had no family history of kidney disease, no diabetes and no symptoms. This was the strangest thing. Since then, I have been working hard to lower my creatinine levels, have been under steroid medication. However, my disease just progressed and since 2017, after I joined Mediclinic, have been under dialysis twice a week.”
She added: “I am thankful to Dubai doctors to have made my transplant possible.”
Reeza, who got married in 2011, lost her unborn baby to spiked blood pressure levels, triggered by her kidney disease in 2012, was told she would have to give up the idea of being a mother. She was devastated but continued her work and came to Dubai to work in health care.
‘I’m out of the woods now’
“Prior to coming to Mediclinic City Hospital, I was working in other facilities. I am thankful that I came to this place, which has a transplant programme. I would not have been able to manage a transplant in India owing to non –availability of organs and the high cost of the transplant. The team of doctors here were very considerate and supportive. My husband, my parents are so relieved that I am out of the woods now and some day, I will be a mother too,” said Reeza.
A social cause
Commenting on the life-changing impact of organ transplants, Dr Waldo Concepcion, Professor of Surgery at the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Heath Sciences (MBRU) and Transplantation Surgeon Consultant at the Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital, told Gulf News: “Nearly 40 per cent of UAE residents suffer from lifestyle disease such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension. In these cases, anyone could progress to suffer from CKD.”
He added: “At present, we have over 2,000 patients under dialysis in our care and they are all candidates for a kidney transplant. It is important to have preventive health check-ups periodically and get the liver function and Kidney function tests and other compete blood panel tests done to avoid complications. People must consult their doctors and pay close attention to their diet, nutrition and physical fitness to gain control of their health and avert organ damage. However, it is important that people are aware of organ donation and educated about its significance.”
Anyone can be in need of organ donation
Dr Concepcion further added that educating people on the importance of pledging their organs through the UAE Health Ministry’s organ donation portal, Hayat, was the big need of the hour.
“People need to be sensitised to organ donation. Look closely, tomorrow, you or your dear one, might be in need of an organ. Organ donation is the best indicator of social goodness in the community. It is the most altruistic act that represents the goodness in human beings. “
Dr Farhad Al Janahi, Assistant Professor of Surgery at MBRU, Consultant Urologist and transplantation surgeon at the Mediclinic City Hospital, said: “Do you know that one single individual can save up to eight lives by pledging their organs for deceased donation?”
He added: “The organs that come under this purview are heart, pair of lungs, pair of kidneys, liver [that can be split in two] and the pancreas. All they need to do is go onto the website of the UAE health ministry and register for organ donation. Everyone can do this.”
How to donate a kidney
Dr Janahi said there were two ways for a kidney patient to get a kidney donation. “In the UAE, a patient can get a kidney from a live donor. These include up to fourth degree relatives or can be on the waiting list for deceased persons’ organ donation.
“When a live donor comes in for donation, we conduct a thorough check up to determine the status of the health of all organs that include heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. We check him or her for hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and other congenital conditions.”
Who is ineligible to be a donor
A person who smokes, is an alcoholic or diabetic or suffers from hypertension is ineligible for organ donation, simply because, it is likely that he or she might end up with kidney failure and need to conserve both the organs, he added.
In case of deceased organ transplant, the recipient is added to the waiting list and is prioritised according to the seriousness of the condition. A tissue match is carried out before the deceased organ is transplanted. The patient is placed in isolation initially and put on immuno-suppressant drugs for life. Once the organ is not rejected, the patient is able to resume his or her life completely and live a full life.
Dr Concepcion added: “Organ donation is truly a gift of life. Once an individual on end stage kidney disease receives a donation of a kidney, he or she is able to resume life as before.”
How to register for organ donation
Anyone can pledge his or her organs to be harvested post death. Organ donation programme like Hayat is the only first person consent to organ donation that the hospital or doctors can refer to use prior to the intervention of the family or relatives.
Once a person is either ill or involved in an incident and is admitted to the hospital, the doctors do everything to restore his or life. In the event that he or she loses life or becomes brain dead, and has previously pledged the organs, the hospital will alert the National Organ Procurement Team in Abu Dhabi, which works in collaboration with the UAE National Transplant Committee that has a representation in every Emirate.
There is a centralised waiting list for organs and as per the priority; the harvested organ is transplanted in the recipient. It is a comprehensive team effort between, the transplant committee, the transplant coordinators, doctors, nurses and the committee members who have to trigger the correct protocol to ensure that the harvested organ reaches the right individual in time. Transplant life cycle
The life span of a harvest organ is limited and it has to be transplanted in that short time window.:
Heart : 4 hours
Liver : 8 hours
Lungs: 8-10 hours
Liver: 8 hours
Kidney: 12-24 hours
In Dubai, there are three designated kidney transplant centres – Dubai Hospital, Al Jalila Children’s Speciality Hospital and the Mediclinic City Hospital. Doctors and nurses work in complete tandem and their goal is to transplant the harvest organ in the recipient in less than an hour for best results.