A kidney donated from an Israeli woman was flown on a charter flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi on Wednesday in the first organ transplant exchange of its kind.
Surgeons removed the kidney from Shani Markowitz Manshar, 39, at the Sheba Medical Centre, Tel HaShomer, before loading it into a chilled box packed in ice for the three-and-a-half-hour flight to Abu Dhabi.
As part of the same donation programme, a patient at Rambam Health Care Campus, Haifa, will receive a transplant from a donor in the UAE.
Professor Eytan Mor, head of the transplant centre in Sheba Medical Centre, said the surgery in Israel was a success.
“Today is the start of a wonderful collaboration with our colleagues from the Emirates and Abu Dhabi," he said.
“We discussed this potential collaboration in the area of organ transplantation six months ago with the Ministry of Health’s representative who visited us here in Tel Aviv.
“Within six months we have fulfilled the first organ exchange between Israel and Abu Dhabi.
“The kidney that we harvested has been shipped to Abu Dhabi.
“We started the procedure at 8am to accommodate the flight times so the kidney would not take too long in the cooler box.
“I hope this will open the door for further collaboration in other fields of medicine between our countries."
According to the National Transplant Centre, more than 1,000 Israeli adults and children are awaiting organ transplants.
Of those, about 700 need new kidneys, 150 livers and 70 lung transplants.
A further 120 people are on the waiting list for a heart transplant.
One of those recipients of a new kidney is the mother of Ms Manshar.
She is due to be admitted to Sheba Medical Centre later this week to receive a healthy organ from a relative of the donor who provided a kidney for the unnamed UAE patient.
The exchange is part of a wider organ donation programme between the two countries that will develop over the coming months.
An agreement has been signed between Sheba Medical Centre, the Department of Health Abu Dhabi and the Dubai Health Authority to promote medical tourism between Israel and the UAE.
Under that agreement, Sheba will offer treatment to 300 patients from the UAE’s security forces and a training programme for Emirati medics.
Despite growing numbers of registered organ donors in the emirates, demand continues to outpace supply of suitable organs for patients with serious health conditions.
To offer a fresh lifeline to patients waiting for a new liver, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi's multidisciplinary transplant team worked with colleagues at Cleveland Clinic in the US to introduce complex living related liver transplants.
It enables relatives to donate part of their liver to family members in need.
The programme has seen 22 patients access life-saving transplants without needing to wait for a compatible donor organ.
“The introduction of living related liver donation has been a huge boost to some of the country’s sickest patients,” said Dr Luis Campos, director of the liver transplant programme and head of hepatobiliary surgery at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
“We are building on that success with the introduction of combined organ transplants that see patients receive two new organs in a single surgery.
“We are very proud to be among just a handful of centres in the world able to offer this highly complex level of care.
“It has the ability to completely transform a patient’s life, particularly when a pancreas transplant frees a patient from the need for daily insulin injections.”