x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Teenager with heart disease is better but knows his limits

Hamdan Al Merree underwent invasive heart surgery when he was just eight days old.

Hamdan Al Merree, 16, has congenital heart disease. He visits the clinic at Rashid Hospital every six months for follow-up testing.
Hamdan Al Merree, 16, has congenital heart disease. He visits the clinic at Rashid Hospital every six months for follow-up testing.

DUBAI // Hamdan Al Merree underwent invasive heart surgery when he was just eight days old.

It was the first of four procedures the 16-year-old has had since receiving a diagnosis of congenital heart disease.

"There was a problem with oxygen flowing from the heart to the lungs," he said. "The doctors saw that I had difficulty breathing and immediately did it [an echocardiogram]."

Hamdan was sent to a London hospital for the first surgery, undergoing a procedure used to direct blood flow from the heart to the lungs using artificial tubing.

He underwent the same surgery again at 11 months, and at the ages of 2 and 12, Hamdan received an operation that diverts blood from the heart to the lung's arteries without going through the pulmonary ventricle.

"Before the last surgery, I would always get tired easily and have problems breathing whenever I exercised," he said. "I wouldn't be able to engage in sports as much as I liked too."

A fan of football, swimming and skiing, this proved a challenge to the Emirati adolescent who wanted only to lead a normal and active life.

Hamdan was sent to London for each one of the operations because the surgery "was not available" in this country.

"This was many years ago, and medicine here was not as advanced as it is now," he said.

Four years after his last operation, Hamdan, a schoolboy in Grade 11, says his condition has improved.

He is now on a blood thinner and visits the adult congenital heart disease clinic at Rashid Hospital every six months for follow-up examinations.

"I'm much better now, but I have to make sure I don't overexert myself," he said. "I would advise all those in my situation not to push themselves too hard and to always continue looking after their condition."

mismail@thenational.ae