A Dubai businessman found his wife was truly a perfect match – after she gave him the gift of life by donating her kidney.
Nikolaos Ntigrintakis was told he would probably require crucial transplant surgery after doctors discovered the medication he had taken in his home country of Sweden for inflammatory bowel disease was causing significant damage to his kidneys.
Mr Ntigrintakis, who moved to Dubai in 2013, had been on dialysis for several years when he decided to agree to his wife's offer to donate her kidney.
“Dialysis was tough. I had to reorganise my life to accommodate my condition. I have a wife and two daughters as well as three companies," said Mr Ntigrintakis, a leading figure in the technology sector.
"I had to appoint a temporary chief executive during my treatment and leave them in maintenance mode rather than work to grow them. I remember making decisions from my dialysis bed and just waiting for good news about a transplant.”
Initially reluctant for his wife, Eleni Theodoridou, to make such a sacrifice, he carried out an extensive search to find the best place for the surgery to be carried out.
“After we had decided to go ahead, the next question was where to have the operation," he said.
"I looked into travelling to the US, Germany or Spain but I did my due diligence and decided to opt for Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. I’m very glad I did.”
His care team assessed the transplant compatibility between Mr Ntigrintakis and his wife, finding that of the eight genes that determine a kidney match, they had three in common, making his wife a close match.
"Generally, a parent or sibling would be a 50 per cent match so for Nikolaos' wife to be a 37.5 match was very fortuitous, particularly as they come from quite different backgrounds," said Dr Nizar Attallah, a transplant nephrologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
"Happily, with advances in medication, even if people have no genes in common, we can still perform the transplant. These medical advances mean that more people than ever can benefit from life-saving kidney transplants.”
To Mr Ntigrintakis' relief, his wife’s operation was able to be performed minimally invasively, sparing her a long recovery from surgery.
“The way the team took care of me and my wife was fantastic, the checks they did before the surgery to make sure we understood what we were getting into – especially for my wife – really made us feel better about the whole process," he said.
"After the surgery, I am back at work and taking a much more active role in my companies. I feel better than I have in years and the gift my wife gave me has certainly brought us closer together. She saved my life and that’s something I’ll never forget.”
Double health blow uncommon, doctor says
Dr Attallah said a patient suffering kidney damage due to medication for another condition was rare and could usually be avoided.
“It’s uncommon to see patients with kidney damage linked to medication. Particularly someone taking medication for IBD," he said.
"Nikolaos was unfortunate to have experienced this problem and doubly so that it went unnoticed for such a long time. With appropriate follow-up, these complications can generally be avoided altogether, and very rarely progress to the point that a transplant is required.”