Thrive by IU Health

December 23, 2020

A Patient From 6,800 Miles Away

A Patient From 6,800 Miles Away

If he drove to his doctor’s office nearly 7,000 miles away from home, Dr. Fahad AlShammari would have to drive for 10 days straight. Of course, going by car isn’t even an option. Dr. AlShammari has to cross seas and oceans to get from Kuwait to Indianapolis.

It’s hard to fathom making such a trek twice a year for medical visits, but Dr. AlShammari was back at IU Health Tuesday after doing just that. We sat down with Dr. AlShammari, a 37-year-old professor of technology and father of six, at IU Health Methodist Hospital after he went through a morning of tests, a follow-up to the lung transplant he had six years ago.

How he ended up in the United States…

He was born in Kuwait to a military father who had two wives, and was one of 14 children – six brothers and seven sisters. He loved technology, what little there was of it back in the 1980s, as a child. And as he studied in Kuwait, Dr. AlShammari had a teacher who was a mentor to him. That teacher had graduated from Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Ind., in 1995.

“He encouraged me to come here, so I came here,” Dr. AlShammari said. And he loved it. Dr. AlShammari ended up getting a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree in technology from Indiana State. It was a happy time, until he noticed something just wasn’t right.

The diagnosis…

“After the commencement, after graduation, my breathing was very hard, difficult,” said Dr. AlShammari. A trip to IU Health revealed pulmonary fibrosis. His lung tissue was scarred and interfering with his ability to breathe.

“My lung was totally damaged,” he said. “So when I got the disease, I said to the doctor, ‘I’m ready. Do whatever you want to do.’”

Doctors told him he would need a lung transplant. So at 31 years old, with a wife and young children, AlShammari found himself on a waiting list.

The transplant…

He got the call in 2010. A donor had been found. He remembers going in for surgery that day at IU Health and that he wasn’t nervous.

“Actually, I’m a Muslim. We believe in the hereafter. Everything that happens to you it is from the God,” Dr. AlShammari said. “You have to accept it, accept everything bad or good.”

The transplant surgery was a success. He spent a week in the ICU and then was on his way to a full recovery.

“I felt better, a new person, a new life,” Dr. AlShammari said. “It was totally different compared to my life before.”

Doctor’s trips…

At first, the follow-up visits were more frequent. Every week. Every month. Every three months. Now, Dr. AlShammari returns every six months to IU Health. And when he does, he makes a vacation out of it, especially the summer visits.

In the winter, Dr. AlShammari stays for a week. He always catches up with his Indiana friends, especially those from his Terre Haute days. But in the summer, he will stay in the U.S. for a month, sometimes two. After his IU Health visit, Dr. AlShammari travels the country with his family – his wife, Anod, and six kids ages 1 to 11 – to places like California and Orlando, Fla.

Every time he walks back into IU Health to see his pulmonologist Chadi Hage, M.D., he said he feels at peace.

“If I came in worrying, nothing is going to be changed,” Dr. AlShammari said. “Why worry? I feel happy here.”

-- By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Benbow via email dbenbow@iuhealth.org or on Twitter @danabenbow.