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UAE docs save Emirati youth's life after routine surgery leads to stroke

Photo (for illustrative purposes): Alamy
Photo (for illustrative purposes): Alamy

Abu Dhabi - He has since regained mobility but will require more therapy.


Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Wed 13 Jan 2021, 9:59 AM

Last updated: Wed 13 Jan 2021, 10:02 AM

Medical experts at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi saved the life of an Emirati youth who suffered rare complications following a routine surgery.

Abdulla, 28, had undergone bariatric surgery at a facility in the UAE to help improve the quality of his life after being assured of the safety and effectiveness of the procedure.

But what was meant to be a few hours in the operation room followed by a swift recovery turned into several weeks of ordeal and a month in a coma for the Emirati because of rare, unexpected complications.

His life was only saved when he was transferred to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. “You don’t go into a routine surgery like this expecting it to turn into a stroke, especially at my age,” says Abdulla.

“I remember the pain that I felt right after the surgery, which wasn’t normal at all. I could feel it course through my body. It kept on increasing to the point where I could not handle it any more. That is when I realised that something was wrong.”

Dr Matthew Kroh, Chief of the Digestive Disease Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, says Abdulla was transferred to the hospital needing an immediate reoperation.

“I received a call from surgeons at the hospital where Abdulla had the surgery explaining that he had entered a life-threatening situation and that it would require the multidisciplinary expertise of our hospital to save him,” said Dr Kroh.

Abdulla’s operation was complicated by an injury to the diaphragm and required an urgent reoperation, which included the resection of 150 centimetres of his small intestine and part of his colon as well.

“This was a life-threatening event and a very unusual complication, which led to a severe outcome for such a young patient,” said the doctor.

“He recovered from that but had a major pulmonary aspiration event where his stomach contents went into his lungs and hardened them. This resulted in a severe lung infection and eventually a drop in his blood pressure and hypoxemia.”

The Emirati was immediately transferred to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s intensive care unit where doctors determined that his condition had deteriorated to such an extent that he would have to be placed on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which is only available at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

His oxygenation got better with the quick intervention and the infection in his lungs began to clear up, but the connection of his intestines fell apart.

Dr Kroh explains that Abdulla then had a severe infection in his abdominal cavity that required several operations as an additional section of the colon needed to be resected. “We had to wash his insides out and put his bowel back together — all while he was still on the ECMO machine,” he added.

During the staged operation, which took place over six weeks, he was supported by parenteral nutrition.

As he slowly recovered and regained strength, he was removed from breathing support, extubated and began eating on his own.

Abdulla has dropped from 150kg to 102kg since the surgery but says that it has been an arduous journey with a long way to go.

“The stroke affected my hands and legs and the doctors at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi conducted physical therapy while I was still in intensive care. I have regained a lot of my mobility but will require more therapy,” said the Emirati.


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