News and Events

First Ever Israel-United Arab Emirates Organ Exchange at Rambam

Publication Date: 8/1/2021 10:30 AM

This week Rambam Health Care Campus participated in a unique kidney transplant that involved donors and recipients in Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

The kidney is transported to Rambam (L) where the transplant was immediately performed (R). Photography courtesy of RHCC.The kidney is transported to Rambam (L) where the transplant was immediately performed (R). Photography courtesy of RHCC.

Last Wednesday, at 18:30 it happened – an ambulance arrived with flashing lights from Ben Gurion airport with a kidney for a woman who has been waiting for five years. This was part of a complicated cross-transplant operation of the National Center for Organ Transplants.

Doctors at Sheba Medical Center removed a kidney from Shani Markowitz, 39. The surgery went smoothly, and the organ was raced to Ben Gurion Airport in a special cooler and flown to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Meanwhile, a woman in Abu Dhabi underwent surgery and her kidney arrived in Israel, designated for a patient at Rambam – Walla Azyza – a 34-year-old from the village of Daburiya near Mount Tabor. Walla’s husband is donating his kidney to Markowitz’s mother, and Markowitz’s kidney has been flown to the mother of the Abu Dhabi donor.

This complex transaction is part of an arrangement involving three families, in which one person in need of a kidney receives a suitable organ, while their relative donates their kidney to a stranger. Such a system is needed because none of the patients have relatives with a suitable kidney match for them.

“This is very exciting. It’s the first time we have conducted such a process between Israel and an Arab state, and it demonstrates that medicine truly has no borders,” said Professor Rafi Beyar, former Director General of Rambam, and the Chairman of the Israel Center for Organ Transplantation.

This is one of several instances of medical cooperation brought about by the year-old Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE. Professor Beyar stated, “We have two families in Israel and one in Abu Dhabi involved in a process that we call a cross-couple transplantation. We have done this with Cyprus in the past, but expanding to the UAE opens new possibilities. Given the geographic proximity of the UAE, this arrangement can be used regularly to save lives.”

Learn more from this Times of Israel article.

Click below to see the kidney arrive at Rambam.