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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Sara Al Raysi, pictured with her father Juma Saeed Al Raysi on Tuesday March 6, described how proud she was to donate one of her kidneys to save his life. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Emirati woman gives father ‘the gift of life’ by donating a kidney

An Emirati woman donated a kidney to save her father in what she proudly described as the “greatest thing anyone could do in life”.

Sara Al Rayssi gave a kidney to father Juma, 66, whose health was failing after a series of complications. The 33-year-old said

the alternative would have meant her father undergoing regular dialysis sessions.

“There was no way that I was going to allow my father to be on dialysis,” Sara told The National.

“Right before the procedure, the anaesthetist asked me why I was so excited and I told her that this might be the greatest thing anyone could every do in their life. I was so excited that God had blessed me with this opportunity.

“Ten years ago he had to have his left kidney removed because doctors found a benign tumour. Since then and because of his lifestyle his right kidney began declining.”

Juma’s other kidney functioned at just 12 per cent last year and he said he suffered constant pain, fatigue and feeling bloated. “It was very hard for me, I would walk two steps and feel tired,” he said.

The family were referred to Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, the UAE’s largest transplant unit, and the 10 children had three months of tests to see who would be the best match.

“I prayed and prayed that it would be me and not my other siblings,” said Sara. “Every time the hospital’s number showed up on my phones, my hands would begin shaking.”

When she was told she was the only match, her mother said Sara cried with joy. “I can’t tell you all the screaming and crying and laughing that Sara was doing,” Sudfa Ahmed said. “I thought a friend of hers was getting married.”

Juma initially refused an operation. “I didn’t want to hurt my daughter. She is the backbone of the family, she is my support and my entire life,” he said. “If anything happened to me or her mother, then there would be no one to care for the other children. She isn’t the eldest but she is our backbone.”

After months of trying to convince her father that the operation would not harm her, he relented. Sara wants every Emirati to know there is no stigma, pain or barrier to donating an organ to someone in need.

“I don’t understand how any person would not donate their kidney to their father or their child. It has absolutely no impact on the donor and it is life-saving to the recipient. I am living proof of that,” Sara said. “I spent three days at the hospital and I am fine.”

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Read more:

Abu Dhabi Hospital first to offer heart, liver and lung transplants in UAE

UAE's largest organ unit receiving calls 'every day' from prospective donors

Everything you need to know about the UAE's organ donor programme

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Transplants from live donors have been carried out in the UAE since 2009 but there has been more focus and investment in facilities in recent months after a change in the law allowed organs of dead patients to be used. Opinion was previously divided as to whether donations from a deceased person were permissible in Islam, but that has changed in society and among scholars.

For those concerned about donating kidneys or the scars, Sara said: “My scar is four centimetres long and when the doctor told me not to worry and that he would try to leave the smallest scar possible, I told him, ‘I don’t care, leave my entire body covered in scars, it means nothing to me so long as it is for my father.’ Giving me the opportunity to donate is a blessing that I thank God for every single day. I want people to see that by donating their kidneys, they are giving their loved ones the gift of life.”

Sara celebrated her 33rd birthday – the “best birthday ever” – in the recovery room on December 14. From now on she will celebrate it on December 13 – the day of the transplant.