Saudi Arabian doctors save lives around the world with Albalsam International

Albalsam International Organization treats all patients equally, regardless of race, creed or gender. (AFP/File)
Updated 21 June 2019
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Saudi Arabian doctors save lives around the world with Albalsam International

  • Specific teams are chosen for each trip based on the needs of the country in question, says team leader Emad Bukhari

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian nonprofit Albalsam International Organization and its team of surgeons have reportedly provided medical assistance to 2,524 patients in six different countries, including Yemen and Tanzania, it announced recently.

Albalsam, which opened in Switzerland in 2017 under the leadership of Saudi cardiologist and executive director Dr. Emad Bukhari, provides free medical services to underprivileged citizens around the world. 

The organization has seven teams specializing in different areas of medicine: Cardiovascular medicine and surgery; ophthalmic medicine and surgery; pediatric medicine and surgery; cardiac catheterization; pediatric urology; intensive care; and respiratory care.

Bukhari cites Qur’an 22:77 — “O you who have believed, bow and prostrate and worship your Lord and do good — that you may succeed” — as the inspiration behind the organization.

“By the grace of God first, and then by the hard work and devotion of my team and the generous assistance of those who donate to us, we are able to do good in service of humanity,” Bukhari told Arab News.

In numbers

560 cases of eye patients.

2,524 recipients.

46 surgery for children.

Specific teams are chosen for each trip based on the needs of the country in question, he explained: “If we are urgently needed to perform surgeries, we’ll send a larger surgical team of about 10 people. If we are sending doctors to offer training or teaching, we might send four.” The necessary resources for each trip are donated by various hospitals.

The doctors do their utmost to ensure that they are able to provide follow-up care for their patients too, and monitor their recovery. 

“We do not go anywhere unless we know we have the full means to offer the proper care,” Bukhari said. 

“We ensure that the local medical teams can carry on the treatment after we leave, training them ourselves if we have to, and we even follow up on the phone or over Skype, if necessary.”

To date, the organization has provided services including open-heart surgery, cardiac catheterization therapeutic intervention surgery, cardiac ultrasound diagnosis, cataract surgery, and various pediatric surgical procedures.

Bukhari said that the organization treats all patients equally, regardless of race, creed or gender.

“Islam teaches us that saving a single life is like saving all of humanity, and that is how Albalsam contributes to the growth and expansion of its work and puts its own mark on humanitarian action.”


Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 20 July 2019
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Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


EVENTS WATCH

1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.


The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.