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Case Study - Hany Riad


Hany Riad, a Consultant Surgeon in Transplantation, has worked at the Trust for 16 years and been a consultant for 20 years. He recently visited the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Ghana with Transplant Links, (TLC) a UK registered charity that saves the lives of children and adults in the developing world who suffer from fatal kidney disease. They carry out living donor kidney transplants and share their knowledge with local medical teams so that sustainable transplant programmes can be run in the long term.  


Transplant Links was established in 2006 by a group of British doctors with many years of transplant experience including Dr Jennie Jewitt-Harris who is now the Chief Executive of the charity. Mr Riad knew of the charity though a colleague, Mr Andrew Ready and when this opportunity came up, knew it was too good to miss. 


Mr Riad said: “I am very grateful to my consultant colleagues who agreed to cover my work during my absence. I am also grateful to Karen England, Jim Hill and Titus Augustine for agreeing to give me the time off.” 


Whereas in a normal week, Mr Riad may carry out one or two transplants, in Ghana he performed four in a week.  They were all living donor transplants ranging in age from 20 to 50, and were recipients from various relatives. Nephrologist Dr Joe Adu who went out to Ghana after retiring, cares for the patients, pre and post operatively and ensures they are prepared and well enough to undergo surgery. 


Mr Riad said: “The transplants were relatively straightforward but technically the surgery was more challenging because the blood vessels used to join the kidney were encased in dense scar tissue and lymph glands. This is because people tend to walk with bare feet and get cuts and infection in their feet.” 


Mr Riad said there were some differences between his ‘day job’ and volunteering abroad. He added: “We only got to meet the patient the day before surgery for the first time. Here, we get the essential surgical, anaesthetic and nursing team and probably one or two observers in theatre. , but in Ghana, at one point there were 24 people in theatre! It was a bit excessive but they did not get in the way. We had two trained theatre nurses one from Birmingham and one from Belfast and they did a fantastic job training the nurses in Ghana.” 


However, one aspect of operating in Ghana which was surprising is the fact that the facilities were not as different as you may imagine. The team from Birmingham took a lot of equipment with them and it was also a sufficient enough environment to operate safely in.


The reality of operating in such a specialised area thousands of miles away from home played heavily on Mr Riad’s mind as he wanted to give his newly transplanted patients the best possible start to their new life as he had to leave them to come home less than a week later.  


He said: “I felt anxious as you do not want to leave a problem behind so you just try to do things extra carefully as you worry about what you leave behind.” 


Mr Riad feels that staff in a similar field to him would need to develop their expertise in the NHS before attempting to volunteer abroad. Despite the reason about working in such a pressurised environment Mr Riad would not hesitate to do it all over again as it can give a person the gift of life.


He said: “Dialysis facilities are limited in places like Ghana and not everyone can afford it because it is not subsidised by their health service. It is therefore better to try to transplant patients before they need dialysis, otherwise many will die of kidney failure which can be avoided.”


All photos are copyright Jennie Jewitt-Harris.