How research saves lives – Essa’s story

After being born with only one kidney, fourteen-year-old Essa has had kidney problems his whole life. Essa received pioneering new treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) that not only gave him a new kidney, but also saved his life.

A long wait for a transplant

When Essa was just five years old, his kidney began to fail. Even after a kidney transplant in the Philippines, Essa’s kidney function continued to decline, and after eight years he required kidney replacement therapy with haemodialysis – a treatment he had never had before.

Following a recommendation from their local health office in Dubai, Essa’s family agreed to bring him for treatment at GOSH where he became the first child in the UK to receive a human leukocyte antigen (HLA) incompatible kidney transplant.

Undergoing state-of-the-art treatment

Essa spent nearly a year being treated at GOSH and seven months on dialysis before he was able to have a second transplant under the care of Dr Stephen Marks, Consultant Paediatric Nephrologist. Essa’s mother had offered one of her kidneys, but due to Essa’s high level of HLA antibodies, the chances of his body rejecting the new kidney would be very high. 

With the collaboration of transplant surgeons at Guy’s Hospital in London and Kings College London, Essa was able to accept his mother’s kidney by undergoing the transplant with antibody removal. His HLA antibodies were removed prior to transplant using a blood filtering process known as plasmapheresis, making him the first child to have an HLA incompatible kidney transplant in the UK.

Dr Marks highlighted the importance of this treatment for children like Essa, “Historically, children with HLA antibodies would not be able to receive kidneys from living donors and would be on the waiting list for deceased donor kidney transplants for many years.”

Research at GOSH

GOSH is recognised as one of the few truly world-class hospitals for children and has clinical and research experts working every day to find new and better ways to treat children.

Dr Stephen Marks is one of these research experts and has led the kidney transplant team for over a decade. Through his research, he aims to help children who are kidney transplant recipients by getting involved in international immunosuppressive drug studies.

“I love seeing how we are able to improve the quality of life for our patients on dialysis after they receive a good functioning kidney transplant”, said Dr Marks of his clinical work.

“If you came to my kidney transplant clinic, you would see a group of healthy children who can lead lives to the full.”

Looking forward

Essa’s recovery has gone well and he has returned to Dubai. “Since the operation, Essa has been absolutely fine.” Says his father Ahmad. “He has been out and about with friends. He has a normal life.”

Donate now to help fund pioneering research at GOSH and to help save the lives of more children like Essa.