Dubai: For four long years, he grappled with the trials of chronic kidney disease, undergoing dialysis twice a week and battling other disruptions to his daily life.
Today, Indian expat Srinivas Velagapudi, 57, is enjoying a new life, thanks to a kidney transplant that he recently received from a deceased expat who was declared brain dead.
A resident of Dubai for 13 years, Velapgapudi is now full of gratitude to the generous family of the donor for their noble gesture and the country’s healthcare system for making this life-saving procedure possible.
Speaking to Gulf News about his life-changing experience, Velagapudi recalled how the disease had taken a toll on the quality of his life with an exhausting series of medical appointments and dialysis sessions.
“I had diabetes-related kidney issues that progressed to chronic kidney disease (CKD),” said Velagapudi who works as a maintenance manager at a vegetable oil production company in Dubai.
CKD can range from a mild condition with no or few symptoms, to a very serious condition where the kidneys stop working, sometimes called kidney failure.
“Ever since I was diagnosed with the condition, I had to undergo dialysis. I faced fistula and problems accompanying the condition including blocking, heavy bleeding and cramps. Apart from the general weakness and nausea that accompany dialysis, I faced infections due to the catheter,” recounted Velagapudi.
Doctors at Burjeel Medical City recommended a kidney transplant and added him to the wait list of the Emirates Organ Transplant Centre and the Ministry of Health and Prevention. Velagapudi’s journey to finding a compatible donor was a challenging one.
Despite his wife Sudha’s willingness to become a donor, she was not a match. This left him with no choice but to continue with dialysis and hope for a suitable donor kidney.
The turning point came when a 50-year-old expat sustained severe head injuries and was admitted to Burjeel Medical City. He had brain stem dysfunction and was later declared brain dead by neurological criteria.
Burjeel Medical City is a part of the national organ donation committee’s deceased donor allocation pool.
“We approached Emirates Organ Transplant Centre about the potential brain-dead donor and the possibility of utilizing the deceased individual’s kidney for transplantation,” said Dr Venkat Sainaresh Vellanki, director - Transplant Nephrology.
“The Emirates Organ Transplant Centre team approached the family of the potential organ donor. In an act of profound generosity and nobility, the family consented to the organ donation, honoring their loved one’s memory and potentially granting a new lease on life to a patient in need,” he said.
The team got confirmation from the Emirates Organ Transplant Centre team to proceed with organ retrieval followed by a kidney transplant for Velagapudi.
Thanks to the selfless decision of the donor’s family, Velagapudi received a successful kidney transplant which was even covered by his insurance company.
Velagapudi is one of the lucky recipients of insurance coverage for organ transplant surgeries as in most cases, it is not covered. As Gulf News reported first on Tuesday, the UAE is now set to come up with a law that will make insurance coverage mandatory for all organ transplant recipients and living donors.
The surgical team
Velagapudi’s surgical team was led by Dr Rehan Saif, director of Transplant Surgery for Burjeel Abdominal Multi-Organ Transplant Programme, and comprised Dr Isthiaque Ahmed, Transplant Nephrologist, and Dr Ramamurthy Ganesan Baskaran, consultant Anesthesiology and Transplant Anesthesia.
“The patient had a good recovery period in our dedicated transplant ICU with top-notch medical and nursing care. He was under the constant monitoring of our transplant team and has been discharged after recovery,” said Dr Saif.
He said this is one of the early deceased donor transplantations performed at Burjeel Medical City since the hospital established a multi-organ transplant programme in 2022.
Words of gratitude
According to the medical team, Velagapudi does not require dialysis as of now and can lead a more active life.
“I am back to my normal life now. After my rest period, I have started working and driving. I go for walks also,” said Velagapudi.
He expressed his deep gratitude for the UAE’s healthcare facilities and the incredible generosity of the donor’s family. “I am truly grateful for the opportunity to receive this kidney transplant, which has given me a second chance at life. I am deeply grateful to the UAE for its world-class healthcare system and the selflessness of the donor’s family. They all are in our prayers and thoughts. Before this, it was like a tunnel without light but now after the transplant there is light and hope,” he said.
“After my experience and surgery, I urge and highly recommend all people who are healthy, whether young or old, to become organ donors as it can save a life and a family that is in distress,” he added.
The doctors said the successful kidney transplant underscores the UAE’s commitment to organ transplantation and saving lives. It showcases the importance of organ donation and the incredible impact it can have on the lives of individuals suffering from life-threatening conditions.
“One deceased donor can save up to eight lives by the process of organ donation. It saves thousands of lives every year. However, the shortage of donor organs is a major limiting factor. Burjeel Medical City has worked actively to promote awareness about this ‘gift of life’. We will continue to advocate organ donation and support the Hayat Organ Donation Programme and educate the community,” added Dr Saif.