Young man pulled back from the brink of death

Eudore R. Chand

ABU DHABI 13 January 2021: When Abdulla decided to undergo bariatric surgery at a facility in the UAE to help improve his quality of life, he was assured of the safety and effectiveness of the procedure.

But what was meant to be a few hours in the operation room followed by a swift recovery turned into several weeks of ordeal and a month in a coma for the 28-year-old patient because of rare, unexpected complications.

His life was saved when he was transferred to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health, which has specialists who can help in extreme cases such as his.

“You don’t go into a routine surgery like this expecting it to turn into a stroke, especially at my age,” says Abdulla.

“I remember the pain that I felt right after the surgery, which wasn’t normal at all. I could feel it course through my body. It kept on increasing to a point that I could not handle it anymore. That is when I realized that something was wrong,” he says.

Dr. Matthew Kroh, the Chief of the Digestive Disease Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, says Abdulla was transferred to the hospital needing an immediate reoperation.

Life-threatening situation

“I received a call from surgeons at the hospital where Abdulla had the surgery explaining that he had entered a life-threatening situation and that it would require the multidisciplinary expertise of our hospital to save him,” says Dr. Kroh.

Abdulla’s operation was complicated by an injury to the diaphragm and required an urgent reoperation, which included the resection of 150 centimeters of his small intestine and part of his colon, as well.

“This was a life threatening event and a very unusual complication which led to a severe outcome for such a young patient,” he says.

Stomach contents went into his lungs 

“He recovered from that but had a major pulmonary aspiration event where his stomach contents went into his lungs and hardened them. This resulted in a severe lung infection and eventually a drop in his blood pressure and hypoxemia. He was immediately transferred to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s intensive care unit where our team determined that his condition had deteriorated to such an extent that he would have to be placed on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine, which is only available at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.”

His oxygenation got better with the quick intervention and the infection in his lungs began to clear up, but the connection of his intestines fell apart.

“He then had a severe infection in his abdominal cavity that required several operations as an additional section of the colon needed to be resected. We had to wash his insides out and put his bowel back together. All this while he was still on the ECMO machine.”

Staged operation

During the staged operation, which took place over six weeks, he was supported by parenteral nutrition. As Abdulla slowly recovered and regained strength, he was removed from breathing support, extubated and began eating on his own.

Abdulla has dropped from 150kgs to 102kgs since the surgery but says that it has been an arduous journey with still a long way to go.

“The stroke affected my hands and legs and the doctors at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi conducted physical therapy while I was still in intensive care. I have regained a lot of my mobility but will require more therapy. I am in constant touch with Dr. Kroh to ensure that my nutrition is on track. There are no words to describe my gratitude for him and his team, and even thanking them a million times is not enough,” he said.

Dr. Kroh adds: “Abdulla has done exceedingly well through these surgeries. It underscores his will and our commitment to provide integrated care to treat the sickest of the sick. Abdulla has a lot of life ahead of him and we will make sure he is back to doing all his daily tasks and activities that he enjoys with minimum discomfort soon.”


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