Abu Dhabi, UAE: A year ago Latifa Sai’ed received the phone call that changed her life and marked a medical milestone in the emirate.
It was on April 24 that Latifa was told she would become the first patient in the UAE to have a transplant – a kidney – from a deceased donor.
It was a landmark procedure at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), which would become its crowning glory in a year of achievements marked by the emirate’s largest public hospital and clinic network.
Now 25, Latifa is happy and healthy and has embarked on a business degree at Abu Dhabi University.
"Oh thank God, alhamdulillah, I am fine now," said Latifa, an Emirati, from Al Ain. "It has made a big difference in my life. Now I can go anywhere I want and go to university. Now my life starts. My life starts now."
After being dependent on a dialysis machine since she was seven, the operation was life-saving.
A man was in a car crash in Saudi Arabia on April 23 and was declared brain-dead. His grieving family donated his organs to help save others.
After being approved as a near-perfect match, Latifa – deemed most in need of his kidney after relying on dialysis since a rare kidney condition was diagnosed – had the transplant the next day.
It was a success and a first since the Government last year finally cleared up confusion over a 1993 law. It now allows organ transplants from brain-dead donors.
Now Latifa says her life has changed beyond recognition.
"I can plan for the future," she said. "I am grateful to the sheikh, to the doctors, to the donor. I am grateful for everybody that they really really gave me a different life and a new life. I still feel I am dreaming."
Latifa has endured many medical problems associated with kidney failure, but the operation means she now lives like any other young woman and no longer needs dialysis. The achievement gives hope to many patients on the transplant waiting list.
It was one of many successes marked by SKMC in 2013 in its bid to make health care in the emirate among the best in the world.
In April last year, the 1,500th life-saving heart operation was carried out at the hospital’s paediatric cardiac unit, which has been treating newborns and children with heart defects since 2007.
Newborn Elyazia is just one of the children who have benefited this year from the procedures offered at the unit, where doctors are able to perform complex surgeries on newborns that are only a few hours old.
For three hours last Sunday night, her mother, Wafa Shihab, waited anxiously outside the operating theatre.
At just days old, Elyazia, her firstborn, had breathing difficulties. "She didn’t look normal," said Ms Shihab, a Moroccan expatriate, who gave birth to Elyazia on March 23. It was shortly after returning to her Al Ain home that Ms Shihab noticed Elyazia was having difficulty breathing. The 24-year-old took her to a private clinic before visiting Tawam Hospital, in Al Ain.
Doctors found she had two defective arteries – one was completely blocked, while the second was too narrow. Elyazia was then taken to Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.
On Sunday experts performed life-saving surgery, and Ms Shihab said her daughter is now on the road to recovery. She could not be happier with the SKMC team.
"She is doing very well. I praise the hospital staff, they were amazing."
Last year, SKMC helped treat tens of thousands of patients in the emirate and was recognised for its medical achievements.
"SKMC continues to be the flagship hospital in the Seha health system and a premier facility comparable to the best hospitals and medical centres in the world," said Ben Frank, the hospital’s chief executive.
© The NationalApr 2014