A Decline in Energy Levels Points to a Serious Health Concern

Rahima Younis, a 45-year-old wife and mother, first noticed her health declining more than a decade ago. She explains, “I started to feel that my energy levels were falling. It was hard to walk, and I was feeling very tired. Any movement was difficult for me as it felt like I was losing my energy and [I] could not breathe properly.”

After visiting numerous hospitals in the United Arab Emirates to find an answer, Rahima decided to leave the country to consult other physicians for a second opinion. She was given her diagnosis in Thailand: idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). IPF is a progressive, fatal disease of the lungs that causes deep tissue to scar or become very thick and stiff. As the scarring advances, the lungs are unable to properly move oxygen throughout the body, causing oxygen-deficiency in the organs. “Idiopathic” refers to cases of pulmonary fibrosis where the cause is unknown.

A Virus Curtails Treatment and Accelerates Disease Progression

Rahima returned to the UAE to move forward with a treatment plan. However, she contracted a virus that deteriorated her health and forced her into hospitalization. After recovering from the virus, Rahima became dependent on an oxygen tank, which she had to take with her everywhere she went. “I couldn’t take care of my family because I wasn’t free to move as I was connected to the oxygen 24/7. There was nothing I could do without it. When I walked, I had to carry the oxygen; even praying and ablution was very hard for me.” For four years, Rahima was dependent on supplemental oxygen.

In Dire Health, the Need for a Donor Arises

Two years after Rahima recovered from the virus, as her health continued to decline, she was transferred to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. Dr. Fadi Hamed, a pulmonologist in the Respiratory & Critical Care Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, received Rahima for care.

After three years of using supplemental oxygen, Rahima needed a double lung transplant. She began to meet with a team of healthcare providers at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and was placed on the waiting list for a donor. The team included her pulmonologist Dr. Fadi Hamed, lead surgeon and Chief of Thoracic Surgery Dr. Redha Souilamas, transplant coordinators, dieticians, social workers, and psychologists. One year later, on June 10, 2018, Rahima received the call that a donor had been found and that she would be receiving a new pair of lungs. 

A New Pair of Lungs Provides Newfound Freedom 

Following the operation, Rahima felt immense gratitude. She expresses, “The first thing I did was thank God and the medical team, who put in all this effort to make my surgery successful... I could breathe again without the oxygen. I had dreamed of this day for a long time.” 

Today, Rahima has returned to her normal, daily life and keeps everyone involved in helping her regain health in her thoughts. Although Rahima has not met the donor’s family, she would like to send them the following message: “I would like to thank the donor and their family, who I have thought about every day since waking up from the surgery. Not everyone is so generous, and I don’t know how to reward them, but I wish them the best.”