How UAE surgeon saved Tajik girl’s heart

For most of her life, Mahina Ghaniva could not breathe properly or participate in rough-and-tumble play like most children her age do.

The girl, hailing from a village in Tajikistan, was born with a congenital heart disease, called Tetralogy of Fallot, which caused her to have four defects in her heart.

It wasn't until she was five and a half years old that help from UAE doctors saved her life.

The team of doctors, led by Dr. Obaid Al Jassim, Head of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Department said Dubai Hospital, are part of Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charitable Establishment’s (MBRCHE) “Nabadat” initiative that provides free heart surgeries and medical assistance to children whose parents cannot afford to pay for treatment of congenital heart diseases.  

Now, Ghaniva is healthy, happy and grateful to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

“I want to thank Sheikh Mohammed and his foundation for helping me. I could not breathe or go to school like the rest of the children my age. I am feeling better now and I am very happy,” the girl, who flew to Dubai in May 2019, said on stage during the annual report launch event of Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI), which oversees MBRCHE. 

She was among 1,100 children treated as part of Nabadat initiative since it launched in 2007.

Al Jassim and his team met Ghaniva during their first mission to Tajikistan in October 2017.

“Mahina and her mother lived in a village. They were very poor and her parents were separated,” said Al Jassim.

The eight-hour complex heart surgery did not only save Ghaniva’s life, but Al Jassim’s contribution helped reunite the family back together.

"When Mahina’s parents saw that she was better, there was hope. Both of them reunited to see their daughter recover," Al Jassim said.

Al Jassim followed up Ghaniva’s case during Nabadat team’s second visit to Tajikistan in April 2019 where about 400 children underwent free heart surgeries and pediatric cardiac check-ups.

The Emirati surgeon started his volunteering journey after coming back to the UAE from Sweden where he obtained his clinical PhD degree from the Sahlgrenska University Hospital.

Al Jassim joined Nabadat initiative since its launch in 2007, performing free open-heart surgeries for disadvantaged children in the UAE, before operating on patients who flew in to Dubai from neighboring countries. Later, Al Jassim, along with Nabadat team, decided to carry their humanitarian mission abroad by travelling to aid children in need, easing the financial burden off their families. Since its inception, Nabadat initiative has organized medical campaigns across 10 countries in Asia and Africa.   

Devoting time and effort to help others in need with no return is, for him, part of a doctor’s duty. “Being a doctor is a humanitarian profession before anything else. If I have the knowledge and opportunity to benefit others, how can I turn away children facing death or permanent disability just because their families cannot afford treatment?”

He added, “We don’t bring happiness to children when we save their lives. Rather, they make us happy by giving us the chance to help them.”

Al Jassim noted that the value of giving is deeply rooted in his family and, more broadly, the UAE.