x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

UAE son donates two-thirds of liver for father's life-saving operation

Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (Haad) flies Emirati father-of-six to South Korea for specialised transplant surgery.

Father Faisal Al Jaberi, right, and his son Saleh who went to South Korea for a kidney transplant.
Father Faisal Al Jaberi, right, and his son Saleh who went to South Korea for a kidney transplant.

AL AIN // When Faisal Al Jaberi had 13 litres of excess water drained from his body, he knew it was time for a liver transplant.

"I was feeling normal for years. But in the past year, my body started swelling," he said. "My liver was a mess and to be honest, I didn't take care of myself."

Doctors said smoking coupled with gastric varices (swollen veins in the stomach) caused Mr Al Jaberi's liver disease, which resulted in fluid retention.

"A disease doesn't just crawl up on you like that," he said. "It builds up gradually.

"The body is sort of like a car, the less you worry about its maintenance, the worse it gets."

Mr Al Jaberi's problems with his liver started in 1998, but fear made him put off transplant surgery.

Because liver transplant procedures are not carried out at the emirate's public hospitals, the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (Haad) sent Mr Al Jaberi to South Korea.

His six children were tested as potential donors, and two were compatible. His adult daughter, who did not wish to be named, was originally meant to undergo the procedure, while his adult son, Saleh, would accompany them.

But doctors said that because of the woman's small frame, her liver would not be large enough and there would be a higher risk of complications.

"I was devastated," she said. "I'm so close to my father. I really wanted to help and this was the best way I could. But thank God another one of us could also make the donation."

Saleh donated nearly 68 per cent of his liver without a second thought.

"This is my father, you know," he said. "That says it all."

On June 23, the family went to South Korea to begin preparations, and Mr Al Jaberi underwent the transplant on July 10.

They returned to the UAE two weeks ago.

"I was lucky to get the transplant from my son … someone I know, someone I've seen grow and develop," Mr Al Jaberi said.

Haad covered the expenses for the trip and procedure, including post-operative treatment.

Although the family was grateful for the help, they said having their father travel while he was so ill, coupled with being in an unfamiliar environment, made the experience a little frightening.

"It's a sad thing to have to leave your country for treatment. You feel like you'll never get back alive," Mr Al Jaberi said. "But everything is in Allah's hands."

Saleh said support from Haad made it possible for his father to receive the treatment he needed.

"Fear was the main thing, fear for myself and for him," he said. "On the other hand, there was joy, joy for myself and for him when the operation was successful."