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Suad Aber

Her family was the first to notice something was wrong. Suad Aber’s face was pale and doctors later said her liver enzymes were elevated. She started accumulating fluid in her belly, was having difficulty walking, and experienced coughing and shortness of breath.

Suad had liver cirrhosis and needed a transplant, a life-saving surgery that wasn’t available in her home country of Kuwait.

Enter UPMC's Global Care, a concierge service provided by UPMC to patients around the world, giving them access to highly specialized health care through its virtual network, regional care programs, and U.S.-based programs. Suad came to UPMC for a transplant evaluation and her son was deemed a match, which led to successful living-donor liver surgery.

"With the language barrier I wouldn’t make it without [my hospitality coordinator], and she eased everything for me with the discharge, with the doctor visits, everything."

Not knowing the language and receiving treatment in a foreign land, Suad relied on Global Care to help with not only receiving medical care, but also arranging transportation, coordinating housing, completing paperwork, and a myriad of other considerations for her and her family. Suad was assigned a hospitality coordinator who served as an interpreter and concierge, available 24 hours a day during her stay in Pittsburgh. The coordinator, Ghania Ibrahim, accompanied Suad to every appointment to ease her through the transplant process and became an undeniably important part of Suad’s visit to Pittsburgh.

"What eased my stay in the United States was the presence of my family members, my son, his wife, my other son and my husband [and] also my interpreter who was all the time with me. Whenever I needed anything, I would’ve called her and she will give me whatever needed to be done,” Suad, 61, said of Ghania.

Despite the challenges of being in a foreign country, Suad said her biggest fear wasn’t for the surgery itself, but for her son, Ahmed Aber, 29, who donated part of his liver to her.

"I was so worried about my son. I didn’t even care about myself," Suad said. "If I died that's fine, but not my son."

The transplant took place on August 15, 2013. Suad’s son was in the hospital for roughly 10 days, and Suad was discharged later. On the day before they were to fly back to their home in Kuwait, the two hugged and became tearful as they reflected on their journey at UPMC.

Suad is thankful for the work of her hospitality coordinator: "She's been with me all the time. With the language barrier I wouldn't make it without her, and she eased everything for me with the discharge, with the doctor visits, everything. She was the first one to know everything," Suad said. "Yes, it is really hard to say bye. For them and for all. It's hard after you get to know people here. It’s hard to leave them."

Following the living-donor liver surgery, both Suad and her son have returned to their daily lives. Suad has returned to her home country of Kuwait, coming to Pittsburgh once a year for follow-up, and her son has returned to his job, working full-time.