Times of Oman
Oman health: Sheer hell of illegal organ ops revealed
April 4, 2016 | 11:42 PM
by Hasan Shaban Al Lawati/[email protected]
Many Omanis flock to Asia to buy organs illegally. - Shutterstock
 
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Muscat: “We were taken to an abandoned house at midnight. They made me wait in a filthy room and led my son to a kitchen where a film of grease coated the stove, dirty dishes sat in the sink; it was where a kidney transplant surgery took place,” says S.S., a heartbroken Omani father.

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It was a desperate journey for the Omani father who wanted his ailing 19-year-old son to undergo a kidney transplant.

Having exhausted all other options, he, like many other Omanis, set out on a risky trip to Pakistan with his son.



S.S. is not a one-off case. Many Omanis flock to Asia to buy organs illegally, due to a severe shortage of donors in the Sultanate, medics confirmed to the Times of Oman.

Read also: Desperate patients 'buying' organs

It all started in 2014, when an Omani national convinced S.S. to take his son to Pakistan and have a “proper” kidney transplant for a “reasonable” OMR14,000.

“Sadly I trusted his recommendation and followed his lead. I realised I was duped only when it was too late. He was working with black market illegal doctors’ racket, receiving commissions for luring patients to them,” S.S. told Times of Oman.

The father and son arrived in the Pakistani capital in September 2014, where they were welcomed by an agent at the airport, who drove them through the busy localities to a posh and secured neighbourhood.

“We stayed in a decent house and a maid served us breakfast, lunch and dinner every day,” the father recalled. “However, we were strictly told not to leave the house for security reasons.”

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After a harrowing 20-day wait for the agent to find them a kidney donor, the Omani father received a sudden call at 10pm from his agent, asking him to get out of the house with his son and jump into the car waiting outside.

“I was worried. Something felt wrong,” S.S. admitted.

The driver told them he is taking them to the surgery location, but after a 15-minute drive, S.S. found himself in a residential area with no hospital in sight. The confused father, along with his son, followed the agent to an abandoned house.

“As we entered, there were four people waiting for us. They asked me to wait in the living room while they led my son to the kitchen,” S.S. said, adding that all windows in the house were sealed and covered with thick, dark curtains. “I did not know what to do. My son needed a kidney and I had to save my boy’s life,” he narrated.

The whole setting was too unhygienic for any kind of surgery, but he had no other option. His son was anesthetized and the surgery started at 1 am. During that time, the father asked his agent if he could meet the person, who was selling his kidney.

“The agent pointed at a closed room. I entered. There was a naked man sleeping on the floor,” the Omani national said, adding he later discovered that the kidney seller had received only OMR200 for his “donation.”

Sterilization process

After three hours, the doctors, who according to S.S. were not able to understand a word in English, started the sterilization process.

“It was the most disgusting sterilization I have ever witnessed. The nurse was bringing hot water in an old red bowl from the toilet and washing my son with it. The cold marble floor was stained with blood spots,” the horrified father said.

Not long after the surgery was completed, the father asked his son to leave the house. “He was tired, but I pushed him to move as soon as possible. That place was terrible and I wanted to get my son back to Muscat,” S.S. said.

Soon after arriving back to Oman, he took his son to a local hospital to undergo some tests. However, the results left the father and son in a big shock. “My son’s guts were messed up, his urethra was cut and the new kidney was damaged,” the father revealed.

Doctors said his son needed to undergo multiple operations for his abdomen. “I travelled with my son to Bangalore and Hyderabad to get the new complication fixed. Thankfully, the treatment was covered by Oman’s Ministry of Health,” he said, adding that his son is still suffering from the aftermath of the illegal surgery.

The boy, A, is still undergoing treatment at the Royal Hospital.

The shortage of donors in Oman is forcing hundreds like A to go through similar ordeals in the hope of a healthy life. To tackle the issue, the Ministry of Health has started distributing organ donor cards across Oman and printing the individual's consent on their ID cards, in a significant move to save lives.

S.S. is now dedicating most of his time to warning patients against undergoing illegal transplant surgeries, and taking care of his son after being exploited by “unprofessional” doctors in Islamabad.

The initiative is in line with the Sultanate's efforts to promote the culture of organ donation after a person is declared brain dead, which can save the lives of many patients, who are in need of organ transplants.

Furthermore, the Paediatric Nephrology Department at the Royal Hospital had held an event on March 11 at the Muscat Grand Mall, to raise awareness about the importance of donating kidneys and to highlight the need to engage with people directly.

In a booklet issued by Oman's Ministry of Health, experts said a person can live a 100 per cent normal life with one functioning kidney. Moreover, studies show that donors tend to take better care of themselves after donating a kidney, which ultimately results in better health and quality of life.

Asked as to why Omanis in general do not display a positive attitude towards donating body parts, Dr Badria Al Ghaithi, senior consultant at the Paediatric Nephrology Department of the Royal Hospital, blamed it on the lack of knowledge about the whole process of organ donations. People suffering from health issues, such as diabetes, blood pressure and other serious diseases cannot donate their kidneys.

Dr Sadiq Abdul Baqi, senior consultant Nephrologist at the Royal Hospital, said that back in the 1970s, people in Oman even refused to donate blood.

"God gave us two kidneys although we can live normally with one kidney. I'm sure that God had wisdom in doing so," Al Ghaithi concluded, while emphasizing that more donors are needed to keep both, children and adult patients alive. It's worth mentioning that each donation can save at least eight lives.

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