After miracle saves daughter’s life, Saudi father champions organ donation cause

Soliman Saidi, whose daughter Salma turns three this year, is campaigning to have more Saudis step up to the plate and sign up to become organ donors. (Supplied)
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Updated 05 March 2021

After miracle saves daughter’s life, Saudi father champions organ donation cause

  • Citizens need to educate themselves about the process and urgent need for organ donors

RIYADH: After a liver transplant saved his 70-day-old daughter’s life, a Saudi father has made it his life mission to ensure that others have the same chance.

Soliman Saidi, whose daughter Salma turns three this year, is campaigning to have more Saudis step up to the plate and sign up to become organ donors.
Saidi, a motivational speaker who has been advocating for the cause of organ donation, spoke to Arab News about the urgent need for more volunteers in the Kingdom to donate organs after death in order to help save lives.
“Most people have a lot of misconceptions about organ donation,” he said. “They assume that signing up to be a donor means that they will have to sacrifice body parts that they need to survive, but that’s never the case. While some organs can be donated while a person is still alive, like a kidney or part of the liver, organs like the heart and lungs can only be donated after a person is dead.”
Saidi added that, from a religious point of view, there is nothing to prevent potential donors from signing up.
A 1982 fatwa (religious edict) by the Senior Ulama Commission concerning organ donation and transplantation granted “the permissibility to remove an organ or part thereof from a dead person,” and the permissibility of a living person donating an organ or part of it.
The Kingdom’s primary organization for organ transplants was founded in 1984, the Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation (SCOT). Since then, the organization has worked to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation and has given Saudis a platform where they can sign-up to become donors.




Soliman Saidi is grateful to still have his daughter in his life every single day. (Supplied)

However, statistics suggest that more citizens need to educate themselves about the process and the urgent need for organ donors.
A 2019 study published in the Saudi Journal of Kidney Diseases and Transplantation showed that the majority of the Kingdom’s population are unaware of any local or international organ donation legislation. The level of knowledge was as low as 12.6 percent, which the study claims has led to a low number of potential organ donors in the country.
The same study indicates that Saudi Arabia has a low organ donation rate, estimated at 2 to 4 per million population (PMP). Compared with other countries, such as the US with a 26 PMP donor rate, the number is fairly low.
However, SCOT has nonetheless seen success in the Kingdom. According to figures recorded between 1986 and 2016, there were 13,174 organs transplanted from living and deceased donors, including 10,569 kidneys, 2,006 livers, 339 hearts, 213 lungs and 46 pancreases.
Saidi was motivated to start campaigning for the cause in 2018 after he received what he said was “the worst news of his life” just months after the birth of his youngest child.
“Two months after Salma was born, she experienced liver failure. By the time we realized what was happening, her liver was already failing by about 70 percent,” he said.
Saidi recalled the desperation he felt after being told that Salma needed a Kasai procedure, a risky operation that involves the removal of blocked bile ducts and the gallbladder, and replacing them with a segment of the small intestine.
Doctors informed him that the procedure had a 1 percent chance of saving her life, but he was willing to take the risk.
“She was barely 70 days old,” he said. “I remember thinking ‘dear God, if she has to go under the knife tomorrow, let her live. I want to see her as a bride someday, let her have a chance.’”

HIGHLIGHTS

• A 1982 fatwa (religious edict) by the Senior Ulama Commission concerning organ donation and transplantation granted ‘the permissibility to remove an organ or part thereof from a dead person,’ and the permissibility of a living person donating an organ or part of it.

• Those interested in signing up as organ donors after death in Saudi Arabia can register with SCOT on their website.

However, the procedure was only a temporary solution, and it eventually became clear that what Salma needed was a liver transplant.
“There was nothing we could do at that point but leave it up to Allah,” he said. “At that point, we were fully desperate, and feeling so helpless. All we could do was ask Allah to spare her life.”
Miraculously, Saidi, together with his wife Hajer, were able to arrange for Salma to be moved to the King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh. They also flew to the capital from their home in Jeddah in the hopes that they would find a donor for their daughter.
“Finding any type of organ donor is a long process, but liver donors in particular are rare. It normally takes ages,” said Saidi. “And this was happening during the Eid Al-Adha holiday. We were fast losing hope that we would find a donor in time.”
However, through the dedicated efforts of hospital staff, Hajer was picked as a viable donor and the family were informed that they could begin preparations almost immediately.
Saidi said that one of the most emotional experiences of the whole process was the way people online had reacted to his plight, and the number of people who reached out when he posted about the issue on social media.
“People were calling me and literally pleading with me to allow them to donate,” he said, growing emotional as he recounted the story. “One of the most incredible gestures I received was a man who called from Tabuk and asked me only to arrange things with hospital staff to allow him to fly in and donate part of his liver, and specifically requested that I not meet with him in order to maintain
anonymity.”
The experience moved him, and when it became clear that both mother and daughter would make a full recovery, Saidi decided to become a champion for
the cause of organ donation in the Kingdom.
“I learned very quickly that convincing people to donate a part of themselves after death was hard enough on its own, let alone trying to convince them to donate while they’re alive,” he said. “But after my own experience, I was determined to do whatever I could to help.”
Saidi is also an adviser to a nonprofit organization, Awad Al-Amal, which enables young patients and their families to overcome disease and difficulties by providing rehabilitation programs and voluntary health services.
Today, Saidi says he has made peace with what happened, and is grateful to still have his daughter in his life every single day.
“I believe everything happens for a reason,” he told Arab News, “I think this experience taught me to never take anything for granted, and it humbled me and reminded me that no one is untouchable in this life.”
Those interested in signing up as organ donors after death in Saudi Arabia can register with SCOT on their website at scot.gov.sa/ar/Register/Index?type=AfterDie.


Want to visit Saudi Arabia for Umrah? Here are the procedures you need to know about

Updated 16 April 2021

Want to visit Saudi Arabia for Umrah? Here are the procedures you need to know about

  • Saudi Arabia reported 10 more COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced the procedures for pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom to follow to perform the rituals.
Pilgrims need to go to a care center in Makkah six hours before performing Umrah to check the inoculation status according to the type of approved vaccines.
They will be handed their bracelet, which they must put on at the center. They will then be directed to the Al-Shubaikha gathering center. There, the pilgrims must present their bracelet to verify their data and their permit.
The ministry noted the need for the pilgrims to abide by the Umrah date and time period allocated to them.
The Kingdom began receiving pilgrims from abroad in mid-March, in accordance with requirements and controls set by the Ministry of Health as part of the precautionary measures set to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah had previously confirmed the launch of the two updated versions of the apps “Eatmarna” and “Tawakkalna,” in cooperation with the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence.
Through these apps, Saudis and expats can reserve Umrah and visit and prayer permits inside the Grand Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, with permits being displayed only on the Tawakkalna app.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah emphasized the need to adhere to the precautionary and preventive measures, and to reserve permits through the approved official platforms.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia reported 10 more COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday. The death toll now stands at 6,791.
The Ministry of Health reported 985 new cases, meaning that 402,142 people have now contracted the disease, of which 9,249 remain active.
It said 463 of the new cases were in Riyadh, 164 in Makkah, 140 in the Eastern Province and 30 in Madinah. In addition, 661 patients recovered from the disease, bringing the total to 386,102 recoveries.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted more than 16 million PCR tests, with 45,843 carried out in the past 24 hours.
Saudi health clinics set up by the ministry as testing hubs or treatment centers have helped hundreds of thousands of people around the Kingdom since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Among those testing hubs are Taakad (make sure) centers and Tetamman (rest assured) clinics.
Taakad centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual, while the Tetamman clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms, such as fever, loss of taste and smell and breathing difficulties.
Appointments to either services can also be made through the ministry’s Sehhaty app.
Saudis and expats in the Kingdom continue to receive their jabs of the coronavirus vaccine, with 6,607,384 people having been inoculated so far.


Saudi Arabia must ‘confront power with power’ in Yemen, says expert

Updated 16 April 2021

Saudi Arabia must ‘confront power with power’ in Yemen, says expert

  • The Arab coalition destroyed five ballistic missiles and four explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthis toward Jazan on Thursday.

JEDDAH: The international community bears responsibility for prolonging the crisis in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia should not simply wait for the Iran-backed Houthis to cause a disaster, according to a Saudi expert in international relations.

Political analyst Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri said on Thursday that although a number of proposals had been put forward to put an end to Yemen’s ongoing conflict, there had been a lack of will from the international community to implement those initiatives.

“If the international community was honest, it would have (acted on) UNSC Resolution 2216, demanding the Houthis relinquish the arms they seized from military and security institutions and cease all violence. The international community is delaying taking action against the Houthis for its own interests,” Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“The international community’s regional interests are its top priority, not Yemen or the Yemenis,” he added.

Al-Shehri believes that, in the face of continued silence from the international community, Saudi Arabia should ‘confront power with power’ when dealing with Houthi attacks.

“We should not wait until the Houthis (cause) a disaster. We count on the Arab coalition and the Yemeni army, especially after the UN’s leniency with regard to putting pressure on the Houthis to accept diplomatic solutions,” Al-Shehri said.

He added that if attacks on the Kingdom continue, then Saudi Arabia should take military action. “The Houthis are using power and this power should be confronted with power. We have tried the international community for seven years, but unfortunately (nothing has been done).”

The Arab coalition destroyed five ballistic missiles and four explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthis toward Jazan, Al-Ekhbariya reported on Thursday.

Those attacks were the latest in a long line of hostile actions against the Kingdom by the Iran-backed Houthi militia.

Jazan University was one of the targets, as well as other civilian sites protected under international humanitarian law, coalition spokesman Turki Al-Malki said in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency, adding that such actions amount to war crimes. He also said that the attacks originated from Yemen’s Saadah governorate and were a “continuation of the Houthis’ systematic and intentional hostile attempts to target civilians.”

The Houthis, who took over the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in 2014, have been widely condemned for their actions against the Kingdom.


62 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

Updated 16 April 2021

62 Jeddah outlets shut for COVID-19 breaches

JEDDAH: Authorities in Jeddah have shut down 62 commercial outlets for breaching coronavirus disease (COVID-19) protocols.
Municipalities in the Kingdom have stepped up their efforts to ensure compliance with COVID-19 safety measures designed to protect public health.
The municipality of Jeddah governorate carried out 4,219 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities and identified 166 violations for issues related to overcrowding and the failure to effectively use the Tawakkalna app.
Officials urged people to report any suspected breaches of COVID-19 regulations to the 940 call-center number.


Saudi students win four awards in European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad

Updated 16 April 2021

Saudi students win four awards in European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia ranked 16th of 55 countries in the European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad (EGMO), which ended on Thursday, rising 10 places from last year and winning four medals.
Each country involved in the competition is represented by a team of four female mathematicians of school age, This year’s EGMO was hosted by Georgia, but held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saudi Arabia was represented by four students who have all been members of programs run by the King Abdul Aziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba) and have received thousands of training hours and attended several training camps.
In the past, Saudi teams have won 20 medals at the EGMO. This year, Rafaa Qanash from Jeddah won a silver medal, while Lara Munqal from Jeddah, Joud Bahwini from Yanbu, and Fatima Al-Ghanam from Al-Ahsa all won bronze medals.
All four students have been members of Mawhiba’s Program for International Olympiads and have received thousands of training hours and attended several training camps.
Mawhiba works in partnership with the Ministry of Education to qualify Saudis to compete in scientific Olympiads. Over 1,300 hours of training are provided annually to prepare students to participate.
The EGMO — launched by the UK in 2012, when 19 countries participated — seeks to encourage female students to compete in mathematics tournaments and to increase female representation in international Olympiads. Currently, only 10 percent of participants in math-based Olympiads are female.


Saudi ambassador to Indonesia launches iftar program

Updated 16 April 2021

Saudi ambassador to Indonesia launches iftar program

Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia Essam bin Abed Al-Thaqafi on Thursday launched a massive iftar program and started distributing King Salman’s gift of dates for the year under the supervision of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance.
The program includes the distribution of 3,000 food baskets and 10,000 iftar meals to hospitals, orphanages and others in Indonesia. Al-Thaqafi oversees the project in cooperation and coordination with the Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs, along with other prominent Islamic societies and centers.
The initiative was launched at the religious attache’s office for the Kingdom’s Embassy in Jakarta. Representatives from the Minister of Religious Affairs of Indonesia and the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta also attended the launch ceremony.