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UAE's first Covid-19 patient treated using stem cell therapy tells of medical journey

Abdullahi Rodhile spent 40 days in the intensive care unit at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi before he began to improve

by The National May 12th 2020 · 3 min read
UAE's first Covid-19 patient treated using stem cell therapy tells of medical journey

Abdullahi Rodhile spent 40 days in the intensive care unit at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi before he began to improve

The first patient to recover from Covid-19 after being administered stem cell therapy in the UAE has told of his gruelling journey to "full health" after having been placed in an induced coma to stop his organs from shutting down.

Abdullahi Rodhile, 50, from Somalia, contracted the virus on March 30 and, due to a pre-exiting heart condition, his health deteriorated quickly.

The virus had attacked his kidneys and lungs so badly that doctors had to rush him into the intensive care unit at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi and place him under an induced coma for 20 days.

“Whenever we called the hospital to ask about him, they would say 'just pray for him,'” his sister Zainab, 55, told The National.

She said the family braced themselves for bad news after seeing global death tolls rapidly rise.

I was brought back to life. I was dead and now I am alive

Abdullahi Rodhile


“With all this news, we lost our hope. I swear to God, I thought he was going to [die]. Even his wife prepared herself that he was not coming back.”

A week after Mr Rodhile was admitted into the hospital, doctors from Abu Dhabi Stem Cell Centre proposed a new form of therapy that they believed could help treat the effects of Covid-19.

Eager to try any treatment that could help, the family agreed and Mr Rodhile became the first Covid-19 patient in the UAE to be administered stem cell therapy.

The therapy involves isolating then activating stem cells taken from the patient's blood before they are nebulised into a fine mist so they can be inhaled into the lungs.

The therapy has since been used on 72 other coronavirus patients with severe symptoms.

Abdullahi Rodhile was the first patient to recover from Covid-19 using stem cell therapy. His sister Zainab watched over him. Victor Besa / The National 

“I was brought back to life. I was dead and now I am alive,” said Mr Rodhile, who works as a cargo clerk.

“I have never been better. Thank God,” he said.

Mr Rodhile spent 40 days in the intensive care unit but only after beginning the stem cell therapy did his lungs begin to improve slightly. He eventually healed enough to gradually awaken from the medically induced coma.

The first thing he did after he regained consciousness was call his sister.

“He asked for his cell phone and asked them to dial my number. It was 12am and I saw his name and I was in shock. I couldn’t even move," she said.

Mr Rodhile was disoriented and confused at first but slowly began to recover his strength.

“I do believe that, after God, … stem cell [therapy] made his life different,” his sister said.

Mr Rodhile is father to 10 children with his youngest aged only a month. His wife and children live in Somalia.

His stem cell treatment was free, in line with an order from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, that all costs be covered for any critical coronavirus cases treated using the new therapy.

The treatment is considered "supportive". It is administered to patients alongside more conventional medical support and established treatment, rather than as a replacement.

"I am grateful and want to thank every person who has supported me and has taken care of me and for Sheikh Mohamed and the UAE government for covering my treatment," said Mr Rodhile.

last updated: 2020-05-12@19:05