Khartoum, Sudan (Sudanow)—Scientists and researchers have accomplished amazing successes in the different walks of life providing easy and enjoyable ways of living for mankind. But most important were their accomplishments in the field of medicine, saving the life and alleviating pains of many. More advanced is the technology of transplanting human limbs which is yet another medical attainment. Renowned Sudanese NET Specialist Taha Talaat was the first doctor in Africa and the Middle East to benefit from the liver transplant technology. SUDANOW presents the details of this achievement in view of its importance and, the both pleasant and painful situations, accompanying it.
More than 50 years ago and motivated by the October 1964 Revolution spirit, Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist and founder and chairman of the Sudan Deaf and Dumb Society, Dr. Taha Talaat, travelled to Congo and joined as a volunteer the Molinga Army, the remainder Lumumba Army fighting Simba Army in the north.
This humanitarian job lasted only one month after which Dr. Talaat had to return to Khartoum catching hepatitis.
He spoke to SUDANOW about one of the strangest and most difficult surgical operation of its kind to be conducted in the Middle East and Africa in 1989. He related his experience with the disease till its deterioration and the consequent liver transplant. Dr. Talaat said:
After my return from the Congo and discovery of the disease, days passed and my condition fluctuated and at last the virus that hit my liver and which was incurable at that time consumed most of the liver cells and transformed it into useless fibers blocked passage of the blood from the stomach and intestines through the liver to the heart. This stage of the disease is diagnosed as cirrhosis which is treated only by taking away the infected liver and replacing it with another liver taken from a dead person.
The surgical operation of a liver transplant was newly introduced and was conducted only in one hospital in the United States of America, costing at that time 225,000 US dollars, not to mention the travel and accommodation expenses.
He said because of his close relationship as a volunteer with the Palestinian Fatih Organization, late Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat offered to treat him in Cairo. But Talaat did not like the idea of going to Egypt for treatment and declined the invitation of late Mr. Arafat.
His case deteriorated and was admitted in Khartoum's Ibn Sina Hospital for acute hemorrhage; "Almighty God responded to my prayer that I would not vomit blood and in the end Dr. Suleiman Salih Fidail managed to check the hemorrhage", Talaat said.
He added that in another successful attempt, Dr. Fidail contacted a close friend in the US who was a surgeon specializing in liver transplant and surgery and who has a big center in Pennsylvania. Fidail explained to the American specialist the case and told him that the patient (Talaat) was infected in Congo where he was working as a volunteer and contributed a great deal to supporting and assisting the needy people and founded the Sudanese Deaf and Dumb Society and opened a school to teach them.
The American surgeon, Dr. Thomas Starzil consented and asked Dr. Talaat to come immediately and the latter travelled despite the high cost.
Making a simple account, I found out that if I collected all my income since starting work, and without spending anything from it, I might not be able to meet the cost of the operation. Relying upon God, I sold all my belongings and secured 40,000 US dollars and, on recommendation by my friend then Minister of Health Dr. Shakir al-Sarraj, the Minister of Finance approved a grant of 25,000 US dollars. Then I travelled in a condition that only God knows, a stomach full of blood, a lung full of liquids, extreme exhaustion, walking slowly and sometimes I had to sit on the ground, and at last I arrived at New York Airport where I was received and taken to Dr. Thomas Starzil Center.
I understood there that there is no cure for my liver case other than transplanting the liver of a brain dead person (irreversible coma) and since my arrival in the States, I was told that a great number of youths carry notes in pockets offering to donate parts of their dead body in case of death in accidents. There are also lists concluded in an agreement by the US and Canada containing names of needy patients and donors. The conformity is determined electronically and the liver transplant requires only conformity of the blood group and the size of the liver."
Dr. Talaat added: soon upon my arrival in the States, the situation got complicated with an inflammation that attacked and took me to hospital costing me 11,000 US dollars while the rest of the money was held up by the bank with which the Sudanese embassy transacts in Washington.
A message was delivered at the Center informing that a liver of a 16-year-old youth who died in a traffic accident conforms to my liver. The brain dead boy was in a Carolina hospital and due to long distance a plane with a team of surgeons of different specializations on board carrying with them ice and liquid containers to preserve the part of a body for 24 hours. An anatomy process is conducted and according to the conformity, one specialist takes the heart, another takes the liver, a third one takes the lung, another chooses the kidney, and so on. When I was taken to operations theatre, the Center's Accounts Department saying that this patient did not pay the expenses and the operation would not be carried before the money was paid. A humane response was made by Dr. Thomas who told the Accounts Department that the patient was an extraordinary person who devoted himself to the voluntary work and assisted the needy people, mentioning everything that Dr. Suleiman Fidail told him the message. Dr. Thomas said to Accounts Department that he would conduct the operation and, if it succeeded they could take the patient to prison. I was taken into the operation theatre while my wife Buthainah was waiting outside, praying. The most difficult operation took 16 hours, cutting open my stomach from the front and the back in the shape of a Mercedes mark and linking connections for the incoming and outgoing flow of the blood from the liver awaiting the liver transplant. Upon arrival of surgical team, the damaged liver was extracted and the substitute was transplanted under the care of Almighty God and I was given an anti-hepatitis injection and moved to the intensive care unit completely unconscious. Dr. Thomas and the other doctors got puzzled when they found out that the new liver was rejected and they decided to give an anti-rejection drug recently discovered in Japan with a little side-effect but very expensive. Fortunately, I was among 14 patients on whom the drug was tested and therefore the manufacturing company gave it to me as a free-of-charge grant for five years. Three days later, I felt that something was suffocating me and I restored consciousness when I tried to snatch it and the doctors and my relatives got pleased.
In the beginning the dose of the anti-rejection drug was big but was gradually cut down. I used to travel for check-up each year and after six year the rejection reoccurred and, as a doctor, I felt it and increased the dose before flying quickly to Pennsylvania and was treated but the anti-rejection drug affected the kidney. Dr. Thomas Starzil insisted on cutting down the dose, something which the doctors of the teams were opposed to but Dr. Thomas opinion overruled as he was the team leader and chairman of the Center and I was sent to California for treatment. A stroke of luck also landed upon me there after discovery of a medicine that permanently suppresses the virus and another drug that keeps it under control.
I remember that before the operation was conducted and during the search for required money, the husband of my sister, late Abbas Mussa, who was then director of the Diplomatic Institute in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, went to Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, who was then the Amir (Governor) of Riyadh region, appealing for assistance. One day while I was in bed desperate and depressed with my weight coming down to 50 kg after the representative of the Accounts Department came to notify me that no operation would be made before payment of at least half of the cost, Dr. Thomas the world's liver transplant came in to ask me if I knew Prince Salman. I told him that I did not have the honor to see him in person but I heard of his benevolence and the philanthropic societies and organizations he supervised. Dr. Thomas told me that Prince Salman offered to pay the invoice of my treatment. My tears poured and my heart beat with passion and I prayed that God may prolong his life and bestow unto him good health. I call upon all doctors to treat patients with kindness and tenderness as the patient is in his weakest and most difficult state and is in need of consolation, good word and kindness and reassurance. After pouring intensive tears of joy, I felt unlimited optimism and hopefulness and thanked God, the Omnipotent and Supreme.
Few days later, Dr. Thomas brought me the letter that was sent from the office of Prince Bender bin Sultan, who was then the ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Washington, addressed to the medical center of the University of Pennsylvania, undertaking to pay the invoices of the treatment and the surgical operation of the liver transplant. I am delighted, after 27 years, to repeat the prays that I have used to pronounce every now and then throughout the past 27 years wishing King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques every success, happiness and prosperity for him, his kingdom and his hospitable people who are loved by all people of the Sudan.
Now and after 27 years, I enjoy sound health; practice my job regularly, three days of the week in my clinic and three other days with the Deaf and Dumb Society. I participate and contribute to the formal and social functions and perform prayers in the mosques. When I returned recovered from the States, my friend Mamoun Ali Osman advised me, humorously, that after what I had experienced, I should not get out of the mosque, worshipping all the time. I reminded him that God command us to believe and do good things, two acts which go together, and therefore I stay in the mosque for some time and work and help people for some time.
Similar cases were experienced by some persons, including his brother who went to China but passed away before undergoing the operation. An Egyptian doctor had a similar liver transplant at Dr. Thomas Center two months after that of Dr. Tul'at but died after six month. A Sudanese for whom a similar operation was conducted in Germany died after two years. There were others who survived for forty years but the majority survived from 15 years to three months. The liver transplant has now advanced and a portion of the liver of a living person can be transplanted for a patient but most of the patients pass away due to setbacks.
However, Dr. Tul'at says whenever he experiences a setback; God saves him with a new scientific discovery. He added that many of my friends and acquaintances have attributed this to the benevolent acts I do for the deaf and dumb and all other philanthropic activities I still perform.