Heart transplant gives six-month-old Emirati girl new lease of life in Riyadh

Youngest recipient in Middle East being monitored after donation from baby who died in UAE

Surgeons travelled to Dubai to remove the heart from the donor. Photo: Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital
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A baby Emirati girl has been given a new lease of life after having a heart transplant in Riyadh.

The new heart was donated by the family of a nine-month-old UAE resident.

The recipient was six months old at the time of the surgery.

She is believed to be the youngest to have had a successful heart transplant in the Middle East.

The girl, now aged eight months, had suffered from heart failure and a transplant was critical for her survival.

The paediatric cardiac surgery team at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre performed the transplant on the girl, who was living with the help of temporary artificial pumps.

Donor from Dubai

The centre's surgical team travelled to Dubai, to Al Jalila Children’s Speciality Hospital, to remove the heart from the deceased donor, whose kidneys and liver were also donated.

The transplants required highly experienced professionals, advanced medical infrastructure, and international logistical support and co-operation to be successful.

The Saudi Centre for Organ Transplantation, the Saudi Ministry of Defence's aeromedical evacuation team and UAE's National Centre for Regulating Donation and Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissue played instrumental roles between Dubai and Riyadh.

Following the procedure, the infant's condition has been steadily improving and she continues to be monitored by KFSH specialists.

The Organ Transplant Centre for children and adults at KFSH is the largest in the Middle East.

Since its establishment in 1988, the centre has successfully performed more than 431 heart transplants.

Dr Mohammed Al Awadhi, chief operating officer at Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital, said the operation in Riyadh was the result of efforts among medical teams in the region working together to save children's lives.

“Today, Al Jalila Children’s has helped nearly 30 children through the kidney transplantation programme,” he said.

“We would like to thank the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre and the donor family for their generous gift of new life to the young Emirati girl and other patients.

“In line with Dubai Academic Health Corporation’s mission, Al Jalila Children’s organ transplant programme serves to impact lives and shape the future of health for generations to come.”

Symbol of human solidarity

Dr Ali Al Obaidly, chairman of UAE National Transplant Committee, paid tribute to the family of the young child who saved three other lives.

“Organ donation is a shining symbol of human solidarity. It is a great sign of tolerance and coexistence that our country, the UAE, which is home to over 200 nationalities, enjoys,” Dr Al Obaidly said.

“We see that our UAE organ donation is from all to all.

“We had this nine-month-old child whose family, despite the sad news of losing their child, elected to save lives.

“In their sorrow, they thought only of alleviating the sufferings of others.”

The UAE programme is supported by the Ministry of Health and Prevention, Department of Health Abu Dhabi, Dubai Health Authority and various transplant centres throughout the UAE.

“I urge members to support the programme by registering to be organ donors through the Hayat programme. It is a few simple steps that takes a few minutes but can save lives,” Dr Al Obaidly said.

‘Hayat’ is a national system to encourage more people to donate human organs and tissue.

Anyone aged 21 and above with a valid Emirates ID can register through the Hayat App.

Last year, 55 deceased donors donated 204 organs. In 2021, 39 donated 147 organs.

Updated: January 11, 2023, 11:15 AM