The two back-to-back transplants involved a medical team of more than fifty doctors and staff at the Schneider Children’s Hospital in Petah Tikva.The willingness of a grieving Palestinian family to donate their child’s organs to Israelis, and the advanced capabilities of the Israeli medical system to perform a complex series of operations has given four children a new chance at a healthy life.
It all began with a tragedy when 11-year-old Kaher Udah, a Palestinian and the youngest of 14 children, fell from the roof of his home in the village of Ourza. He was seriously injured and quickly rushed to Schneider Children’s Hospital in Petah Tikva. After spending a week in the hospital, doctors pronounced him brain dead.
Then the doctors asked his family if they would consider donating his organs to Israeli children. Udah’s parents’ immediate reaction was to agree, but to be certain, they consulted with Islamic religious authorities. According to the family, when they asked the Mufti of Jerusalem for permission to donate the organs, he in turn asked the Mufti of Saudi Arabia, who replied in a fax to the family that it was an important good deed. “The mufti said that it would be a great mitzvah,” said Udah’s brother, Ra’ad.
“The family supported this decision all the way, one that was positive, yet extremely painful at the same time,” he added. “We didn’t care at all as to whether the organs would be given to Arabs or to Jews. That didn’t matter. All that mattered was that children were going to be saved.”
After nearly all of Udah’s organs were determined fit for transplant, a logistical operation began in order to carefully coordinate the series of operations. The complex series of transplant surgeries took place in quick succession last week at the Rabin Medical Center in Petach Tikva that includes the Schneider Children’s Hospital and Beilinson Hospital.
The most dramatic and high-profile of the transplants involved his heart and lungs. This donation spurred another “domino effect” operation in which the recipient of Udah’s organs also became an organ donor herself.
The heart and lungs were donated to Cutar Zouabi, age 13, whose lungs had deteriorated badly due to cystic fibrosis. Zouabi had been waiting for such a transplant for a year and a half – her lungs had been barely functioning. “She wanted so badly to be healthy,” her mother said.
Although Zouabi’s heart was completely healthy, lung transplants are linked to the heart in a complex manner that makes lung transplants alone even more risky and difficult. Previous experience has shown that cystic fibrosis patients who have both heart and lungs replaced have a better chance at survival.
So even though Zouabi’s heart was perfectly healthy, it was removed, and her family had agreed to donate that organ as well. The heart was transplanted into Rim Jabrin, age 11, from the Israeli Arab city of Um-Al-Fahm, who would have died soon had a donor not been found.
This operation represented the first heart transplant from a live patient ever performed in Israel.
The two back-to-back transplants involved a medical team of more than fifty. Each move had to be carefully coordinated so that all of the organs would be outside of a body for the minimum amount of time.
When the two girls woke up from their operations, Kaher’s mother, Nadia was there.
“I was so happy for them, and wish them a good and long life. I see these two girls as a continuation of Kaher. I hugged and kissed them, and I want to stay in touch with them. They are my daughters now,” she said.
She has two additional “children” as well. Later on the same day, Kaher’s liver and one of his kidneys was transplanted into a third child, and his other kidney into a fourth child.