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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Emirati tells of 'outstanding' medical treatment following transplant in South Korea

Ahmed Alzaabi had a kidney transplant at Seoul National University Hospital

Ahmed Alzaabi received a kidney transplant in 2017 at the Seoul National University Hospital. Antonie Robertson / The National
Ahmed Alzaabi received a kidney transplant in 2017 at the Seoul National University Hospital. Antonie Robertson / The National

When Ahmed Alzaabi found out he needed a kidney transplant, he never expected his wife would end up being the donor.

The 50-year-old from Abu Dhabi first discovered he had 10 per cent kidney function at Khalifa Hospital at the end of 2016. He then moved to the Zayed Military Hospital where the government advised him to fly to South Korea for treatment at the Seoul National University Hospital.

“I heard about how good the hospital was for kidney transplantation and the UAE Government chose for me to come here too,” he said. “It was possible to do it in the UAE but this treatment was better. I had also heard from a lot of friends about Korea’s expertise.”

Mr Alzaabi inherited a polycystic kidney from his mother, which cannot be cured except with a transplant. Another option was dialysis, which was not ideal as he would not come out as strong after surgery.

“I initially visited the Philippines because my mother did her transplant there,” he said. “But then decided on Korea and arrived in January last year. I stayed six months and went back to the UAE for six months before coming back for a three-week check-up.”

He said the facilities offered in Seoul were "outstanding". His five children were placed in accommodation, he had an Arabic interpreter on hand and prayer rooms available to him.

“The experience was good,” said Mr Alzaabi, who served eight years in the army and 20 in the police force. “It’s important to have facilities like these for Emiratis, it’s more advanced here. The service was really good.”

Since the treatment, he has been more active and healthier.

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“I was very scared when I first found out but he needs our help and we had to do something about it,” said Hazel Alzaabi, his wife who is a naturalised UAE citizen, originally from the Philippines. “We can’t just stop and be scared, we had to face it.”

The suggestion of her kidney donation initially came from a doctor in the Philippines as a joke. “He said I looked so healthy although I couldn’t believe it,” said the 42-year-old. “We tried to see if we were in the same group and if I am fit enough to do the transplant and it worked out.”

Although surgery was possible in the UAE, they elected to travel to South Korea instead.

“We were worried about the fact that we were both risking our lives when we have children so we looked at all options and this was the best way,” said Ms Alzaabi, who works at Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi. “It went perfectly well and in four days, I was already out of the hospital. We need him and he needs us, we need each other. The UAE has to grow and we’re working on it – whatever they can get here, they can also get in other countries.””

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