UAE: 14-hour multi-organ transplant saves woman with lifelong disease

Nada from Egypt had lost two brothers and a sister to the same disease — cystic fibrosis


Ashwani Kumar

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Nada. — Supplied photo
Nada. — Supplied photo

Published: Tue 31 Oct 2023, 4:17 PM

Last updated: Wed 1 Nov 2023, 3:02 PM

Doctors at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi have performed a 14-hour-long complex multi-organ transplant to save the life of a 23-year-old patient suffering from cystic fibrosis.

Living with a severe dysfunction of both her lungs and liver, this complex procedure was Nada’s only option to regain the prospects of a normal life. She had lost three of her siblings to the disease.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that causes sticky, thick mucus to accumulate in organs, including the lungs and the pancreas, clogging the airways and making it difficult to breathe. As the disease progresses, it also affects the liver, intestines, and other parts of the body.

Continuous deterioration of health

Hailing from Giza, Egypt, Nada was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis since infancy and had faced a continuous deterioration of her health over the years, leading to comorbidities such as diabetes, fatty liver leading to cirrhosis, and progressive lung disease.

Despite the challenges, she displayed remarkable determination and resilience in pursuing her studies in biomedical engineering and even establishing a non-profit organisation to support other cystic fibrosis patients in her home country. Before learning about the possibility of a transplant and coming to the UAE, Nada had lost her three siblings to the disease.

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Losing siblings

“The loss of my first brother before my birth, followed by my second sister when I was very young, and then my third brother during my time in middle school, had a profound impact on me. It was during the passing of my last brother that I began to understand the nature of cystic fibrosis and started delving into research about it. After a year of my brother's passing, I was admitted to the ICU when I overheard the doctors discussing with my parents the severity of my condition and expressing their helplessness,” Nada recollected.

Recognising the complexity of her case, her doctors recommended Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, renowned for its advanced medical complex care capabilities and expertise in organ transplantation.

“The decision to travel and undergo this surgery was daunting, but I was determined to seize the opportunity for a better life,” Nada noted.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, part of the M42 network, has recorded the completion of 500 transplants to date since the launch of the Transplant Center at the hospital in 2017.

Dr Usman Ahmad. — Supplied photo
Dr Usman Ahmad. — Supplied photo

Dr Usman Ahmad, department chair of Thoracic Surgery at the Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, led the team of multidisciplinary medical professionals who performed the multi-organ transplant. The surgery, which took approximately 14 hours, involved replacing Nada’s lungs and liver, addressing the cumulative effects of cystic fibrosis on these vital organs.

“Nada’s case was a challenging and complex undertaking. The chances of overall survival of a cystic fibrosis patient after a combined lung and liver transplant are better than those cases where only a lung transplant is conducted as antibodies and proteins from the existing liver do not attack the newly transplanted lungs if it comes from the same donor. Therefore, we proceeded with the double lung transplant which was followed by a liver surgery,” Dr Ahmad said.

Turning point

The surgery marked a turning point in Nada's life. She no longer requires constant oxygen support and can enjoy a near-normal life.

“This surgery has given me a newfound lease on life,” Nada said.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. — Supplied photo
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. — Supplied photo

“I am filled with gratitude for the skilled medical team at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, my family, and the countless well-wishers who believed in me. I now look forward to living life to the fullest and I am writing a book that aims to instill hope in people battling life-threatening diseases and make them believe that anything is possible,” Nada added.


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