UAE: Free life-saving heart surgeries given to 10 children from conflict zones

Patients from Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia are among the first recipients of the initiative offering 50 free paediatric heart surgeries


Ashwani Kumar

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Supplied photos
Supplied photos

Published: Thu 1 Feb 2024, 11:17 AM

Last updated: Thu 1 Feb 2024, 11:05 PM

As many as 10 children from the region, including some from the conflict zones, have undergone life-saving heart surgeries through the Golden Heart initiative to mark Abu Dhabi-based businessman Yusuffali M.A. completing five decades in the UAE.

The philanthropic initiative was announced last month by Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, the son-in-law of Yusuffali, and the chairman of Burjeel Holdings, one of the largest healthcare services providers in the region. Children from Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia are among the first recipients of the initiative offering 50 free paediatric heart surgeries to those from conflict zones and underprivileged backgrounds.

11-month-old Mouheb, diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening congenital heart defect ‘Tetralogy of Fallot’, found renewed hope and a chance at a healthier future in the initiative.

“Upon Mouheb’s initial visit to my outpatient clinic, he displayed frequent cyanotic spells, signaling a critical state. Immediate surgery was imperative, as any delay could worsen the infant’s condition, resulting in heightened cyanosis – a bluish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes due to insufficient oxygen in the blood – and heart hypertrophy, posing considerable challenges for the surgical outcome,” Dr Mourad Hakim, Mouheb’s doctor, said while recalling the severity of his condition.

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Facing financial constraints and the complexities of living in a conflict zone in Libya, Mouheb’s parents, Abdelrazak Mohammed and Mawaddah, weathered the storm for their child. The family made the journey from Libya to Tunisia to get this surgery.

At Clinic Taoufik, under the Taoufik Hospitals Group, they had access to surgery and comprehensive care, all provided free of charge and in a short timeframe.

“We were waiting to meet the finances for the surgery for several months. But with the help of this initiative, we were able to get this surgery in one week. We pray to God Almighty to heal our son and allow him to live a normal life like his peers,” said Abdelrazak, who works in the healthcare sector in Libya.

Mouheb and his mother
Mouheb and his mother

A ray of hope

For Madlin and Medhat, parents of five-year-old Mariam from Egypt, the initiative brought a glimmer of hope into their lives. Due to Mariam’s noticeable stunted growth and smaller stature, which became a source of bullying and challenges in her life, they decided to seek medical advice. It was during this consultation that doctors identified a complex atrial septal defect (ASD) as the underlying issue, which could not be treated with conventional catheterisation procedures and instead required major surgery.

Mariam and her father
Mariam and her father

The surgery was conducted at Nile Badrawi Hospital, one of the facilities of Cleopatra Hospitals Group. Mariam’s doctors, Dr Mahmoud Shehata, consultant of paediatric cardiology, and Prof Dr Ahmed Afifi, consultant of cardiac surgery, emphasised how the team’s swift decision to opt for surgical intervention has helped avert potential complications in the child’s future. According to Prof Afifi, delaying the surgical intervention would have complicated her health further.

“We performed an ASD open heart patch surgery to repair the septal defect. We now expect Mariam to lead a better quality of life with her appetite and activity levels returning,” said Prof Afifi, the surgeon behind Mariam’s successful procedure.

The parents are overwhelmed with the care their daughter has received and have expressed their gratitude to everyone involved in the initiative.

Medhat, Mariam’s father, said: “We are very thankful for the Golden Heart initiative for treating Mariam and making her as healthy as her sisters. Now she can finally enjoy a normal and healthy life.”

Touching 10 lives

The other children who have undergone life-saving surgeries under the initiative are between 10 months to nine years old. Elias and Al Teriki from Libya, Chaabani and Oueslati from Tunisia and Karas, Marvy, Nour, and Mohamed from Egypt are among those who have benefitted from the initiative.

Chaabani from Tunisia
Chaabani from Tunisia
Karas from Egypt and his father
Karas from Egypt and his father

Dr Shamsheer underlined: “We are proud to see that the Golden Heart initiative is contributing to a healthier and brighter future for these little ones. Across countries, we are identifying patients in need, ensuring that this initiative extends its healing touch to those who need it the most.”


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