“To offer your feelings to your loved ones is beautiful, but what is more beautiful is to offer them part of your body,” said 27-year-old Belqassem Mohammed, as he was preparing to be released from hospital after undergoing an operation in which he donated his kidney to his mother.

“To offer your feelings to your loved ones is beautiful, but what is more beautiful is to offer them part of your body,” said 27-year-old Belqassem Mohammed, as he was preparing to be released from hospital after undergoing an operation in which he donated his kidney to his mother.


Mohammed Belqassem

“I was encouraged by the patients on the ward to have the operation here because they all emphasized that this type of transplant had excellent success rates in Libya,” Belqassem said. “I never hesitated because the patient was my mother and we watched her suffering throughout her illness and the pain she had to bear as a result of repeated dialyses.”

Belqassem’s mother, Ajilyia Ali, received her son’s kidney with great joy and hoped that this would be the end of her excruciating three-year dialyses.


 Ajilyia Ali

 And although she acknowledged the quality medical treatment she received in the ward, she did not hide that she wished to go overseas to undergo this operation.

Small but advanced

Despite being small in area, the ward is in good condition and provides unrivalled services compared to any other medical institution in Libya. The ward admits patients with kidney failure and performs liver transplantation procedures as well.

It is comprised of only one operating room (OR) and one intensive care unit (ICU), in addition to a tissue matching lab, blood chemistry and microbiology lab, blood bank, pharmacy, and rooms equipped with all types of diagnostic devices.

General Coordinator of the National Organ Transplantation Program (NOTP) and Head of Kidney Transplantation Ward Dr. Abdulhafiz Shibani and General Surgery and Organ Transplantation Consultant Dr. Tayeb Shawesh underline that NOTP will continue to cover all cases for which donors are available and develop a mechanism to use organs from dead donors inside Libya for cases with no donors.

Shibani says the ward has admitted 1,090 monitoring, kidney failure and kidney transplantation cases and 540 liver transplantation cases.

Development stages

Recalling the different stages NOTP went through after liberation, Shibani said, “The ward’s new administration reorganized the medical staff, supplied the OR and ICU with necessary equipment and devices, conducted necessary maintenance for the building, repaired the medical equipment and performed the first living-donor kidney transplant on February 20, 2012.”


Dr. Shibani

That transplant, says Shibani, was performed with the assistance of visiting Libyan doctor Mahdi Khams, which was followed by a number of workshops for kidney and liver transplantation experiments in which sheep were used. “These workshops played a key role in raising the skills of Libyan staff.” The first living-donor kidney transplant performed fully by a Libyan medical staff was on July 18, 2012. According to Shibani, 29 living-donor kidney transplants have been performed in the ward so far.

Cases from overseas

“The nature of the illnesses,” says Shibani, “forces us to handle patients who undergo kidney transplant operations overseas and are suffering from the rejection of donated organs because they cannot afford the costs of postoperative care abroad.”

“In addition, some patients return home carrying strange types of viruses and bacteria, especially those who undergo kidney transplant operations in countries like India and Pakistan. Such cases pose a danger to patients and to the ward as a whole, due to the rapid prevalence of infection. However, we deal with such cases according to available resources,” he added.

He cites the case of patient Ibrahim Nami who recently returned from India after undergoing a kidney transplant operation which cost him 40,000 Libyan dinars (US $32,000), but the operation did not succeed as a result of tissue incompatibility, so the patient was forced to undergo a second operation with a discount of 15,000 dinars (US $12,000).

“The patient arrived at the ward in critical condition because his antibodies rejected antibiotics. A strange type of bacteria usually develops after an unsuccessful kidney transplant as a result of inaccurate selection procedures of donors in terms of tissue compatibility and also due to other factors,” Shibani explained.

However, the patient is now in a good condition and the rate of bacteria has dropped considerably after being treated in the ward, according to Shibani.

Limited resources


Dr. Shawesh

Shawesh says liver transplantation – amounting to 20 cases – should be performed overseas at present due to insufficient resources. “We need to transfer the needed technology and qualify medical staff by enrolling them in very advanced training courses overseas because liver transplantation procedures require a highly qualified team,” he explained.

Shawesh claims that NOTP has the capacity and the resources to perform kidney transplant operations for cases from all Libyan cities, suggesting that the last case was from the city of Jumayl, in western Libya.

“We buy the drugs that are not provided by the hospital administration from the ward budget because the nature of this illness cannot tolerate any delay and things are generally under control,” Shibani says.

The existence of such a highly efficient medical facility is not an option for all patients in Libya. Travelling for thousands of kilometers is not something every patient can bear, especially in light of the country’s instability.

While the Ministry of Health is obliged to establish similar kidney transplantation wards in other Libyan cities, people frequenting the wards say they are grateful and they highly appreciate the quality services offered there, which emphasizes that there is a glimpse of hope in medicine in Libya.