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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Life of UAE delivery driver saved by 'first-of-its-kind' severed windpipe repair

Mohamed Qasim happy to be alive after operating theatre rescue by quick-thinking surgeons

Mohamed Qasim's life was saved by a team led by Dr Redha Souilamas, right. Courtesy: Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi
Mohamed Qasim's life was saved by a team led by Dr Redha Souilamas, right. Courtesy: Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

The life of a delivery driver who was knocked off his motorbike in a traffic accident has been saved by surgeons who carried out a “first-of-its-kind” emergency repair to his severed windpipe.

Mohamed Qasim was rushed to hospital after a collision with a bus. It was only when he was being operated on that the full extent of the horrific damage to his windpipe became apparent. The medical team was forced to come up with an on-the-spot solution to repair what turned out to be a total rupture of the organ.

While scans had suggested that a large part of the windpipe was gone, they did not point to a total rupture.

"Usually, you have to perform these types of surgeries within 24 to 48 hours to repair the damage, but in Mohamed’s case four days had passed, heightening the urgency,” said Dr Redha Souilamas, chair of thoracic surgery at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

"This was a first-of-its-kind operation. When we looked at the CT scan before the surgery, we could see a large section of the windpipe was completely gone, and the full extent of the damage only became apparent during the surgery. Given Mohamed’s injuries, we had to develop a new approach to bridge the gap while he was in the operating room.”

The solution saw the surgeons connect Mr Qasim to an artificial lung machine before they could safely operate on his airway. During the operation, they repaired his windpipe by using a metal stent to bridge the gap caused by the accident and reconnect it, a technique never attempted before according to the hospital.

Conventional windpipe repair techniques used for more minor injuries or non-emergency surgeries to remove tumours require significant advance planning. Traditionally, surgeons remove a damaged or diseased section of the windpipe and bridge the gap by transplanting a section from a deceased donor, something that was not possible in an emergency like Mr Qasim’s.

"I’ve never seen a case like Mohamed’s where a patient with a total rupture of the windpipe continues to breathe on their own for so long,” Dr Souilamas said. “He was in a critical situation with very little time remaining to save his life.”

Following his operation, Mr Qasim was moved to the intensive care unit where he remained on an artificial lung machine. He has subsequently recovered enough to be discharged from the hospital, but is receiving ongoing support from specialists.

"I am happy to be alive and very grateful to Dr Redha and the whole team at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi for saving my life,” Mr Qasim said. “I am amazed at all the help the hospital and staff continue to offer me as I recover."

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