6,000 Saudis await organ transplants, Persian Gulf
By ARAB NEWS
RIYADH: There are some 6,000 sick Saudis across the Kingdom awaiting organ transplants, something that has in recent years become difficult due to an annual decrease in the number of organ donors in the region, Al-Riyadh newspaper reported.
As a result, such people pin their hopes on an ambitious organ exchange program that has been implemented by Saudi authorities in cooperation with their counterparts in other GCC states. The program is managed by the Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation (SCOT) in coordination with the Air Ambulance Evacuation Department.
One lucky girl who received a liver from a donor in Kuwait is 13-year-old Sarah. Sarah, who is from Riyadh, has, since the age of four, been suffering from Wilson disease, a rare and inherited disorder that causes one's body to retain copper.
"Sarah's condition worsened after she stopped taking her medicine without me or anyone else knowing," said Sarah's mother. "She was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Armed Forces Hospital as her condition became serious when her liver almost stopped working. Then, her medical report was sent to most major hospitals in Riyadh and they all agreed that her life could only be saved if she got a liver transplant," she added.
Dr. Ali Al-Mousa, the consultant doctor at the Armed Forces Hospital in Riyadh, told Sarah's family that she needed a liver donor and that the transplant surgery needed to be done without delay.
"Accordingly, we sent a message to SCOT in addition to contacting several relatives and friends. Many people, including myself, her father and siblings, came forward to donate a part of our liver but none of us were found to be suitable," she added.
Sarah was then admitted to hospital on a Wednesday. The next day, the Air Ambulance Evacuation Department contacted the family saying there was a person at a hospital in Kuwait who was clinically dead and whose liver was suitable.
Prof. Abdul Rahman Al-Ghamdi, assistant executive director general for administrative affairs at SCOT, said information about the possible donor was received from Dr. Mustafa Mousavi, director of the Organ Transplant Program in Kuwait.
Dr. Zayed Ibrahim, medical coordinator at SCOT, said that SCOT officials are in regular contact with staff at some 120 hospitals and organ transplant centers in other GCC states about potential donors.
"After securing approval from the families of such people, who are mainly foreigners, we verify their medical reports with that of the person who needs a transplant," he said.
The donor's family gets SR50,000 in compensation from the medical services section of the Ministry of Health. The donors' bodies are also repatriated to their respective countries once procedures are completed within 48 hours.
Dr. Hatem Khalaf, liver transplant consultant at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, said the liver of an old man cannot be transplanted into a child. Similarly, the blood group of the two should be the same.
He added that hearts and lungs should be transplanted within six hours after being taken out, that livers should be transplanted within 12 hours, and kidneys should be done within 24 hours.
It took the Saudi medical team three hours to remove the liver at Mubarak Al-Kabeer Hospital in Kuwait. When the air ambulance arrived at Riyadh carrying the liver after keeping it in a frozen state, the surgical team at King Faisal Specialist Hospital was ready to immediately carry out the transplant surgery.
The transplant surgery took nearly eight hours, said Dr. Muhammad Mansour, coordinator of liver transplant at the hospital. The transplant surgery was a great success and gave Sarah a new and normal life.