The first ever crossover organ transplant involving Cyprus and Israel took place on Wednesday after two kidneys were exchanged at the old Larnaca airport in the morning.
The effort follows an exchange agreement signed between the two countries.
The agreement stipulates that organs belonging to donors in Cyprus that are incompatible with the recipients, will be exchanged with compatible organs arriving from Israel.
The kidney received from Israel was transported to the new transplant clinic at Nicosia general, whereas the one donated by Cyprus was flown to Tel Aviv.
“It is a historic day for our health system,” said the general surgeon of the Nicosia general transplant clinic Nikos Michael. “We hope our clinic will become a point of reference for everyone in need of a transplant or suffering from kidney failure in our country.”
In statements made to the media, Michael thanked the State Health Organisation (Okypy) “for being behind the massive effort” and the two Israeli hospitals of Tel Hashomer and Beilinson “for the excellent cooperation and for trust they have shown in the newly established Nicosia general transplant clinic”.
Another general surgeon working at the clinic, Michalis Papoulas, called Wednesday “a historic day for Cyprus and for the transplant clinic”.
“The exchange has gone according to plan. We are now confident that the transplant will live up to our expectations,” he said.
Papoulas added that crossover transplants will pave the way for patients on donors’ lists and specifically for those who can count on an incompatible person willing to donate an organ to them.
Israel’s ambassador to Cyprus, Oren Anolik was one of the officials present at the transplant clinic in Nicosia when the kidney arrived, along with representatives from Okypy and from the Pancyprian Kidney Patients Organisation.
“Today’s exchange is proof of the excellent relations between Cyprus and Israel,” Anolik said.
“I am quite emotional today because I believe the agreement will make a huge difference in the quality of life for Cypriots and Israelis alike.
“I am convinced this is nothing but the start of a great cooperation between our countries,” Anolik said.
During the organs’ exchange at Larnaca airport, the director of Israel Transplant Organisation Tamar Ashkenazi said she was very happy to see the results of the transnational agreement.
“I hope we will continue with more organs exchanges in the future, as we are already doing with Austria, Czech Republic and United Arab Emirates,” Ashkenazi said. “We hope to have close relations with Cyprus and achieve the goals we have set.”
Last Sunday, the health ministry said that the main goal of the clinic is to help patients that need kidney transplants and have a living donor that is willing to donate.
The transplant will take place following the transnational, exchange agreement signed in 2017 between Cyprus and Israel and the bilateral contacts made by former Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela during his visit to Israel last September.
The agreement consists of organs belonging to donors in Cyprus that are incompatible with the recipients, will be exchanged with compatible organs arriving from Israel.
The transplant clinic began operating in September, and Hadjipantela signed a five-year plan to cooperate with Israel and Spain to cooperate in the transplants.