Nova Scotia

Syrian sisters receive 'miracle' kidney transplants days apart

Two sisters who arrived in Nova Scotia as Syrian refugees less than a year ago have undergone much-needed kidney transplants just a few days apart.

'It was thrilling. Truly, truly a miracle,' says one of family's sponsors

Sisters Zeyn and Viyana Ali received kidney transplants within days of one another. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

Two sisters who arrived in Nova Scotia as Syrian refugees less than a year ago have undergone much-needed kidney transplants just a few days apart.

The Ali family arrived in Halifax last February. The two eldest of the family's four children, 14-year-old Viyana and 11-year-old Zeyn, each required dialysis for a kidney condition that worsened after they fled Syria to Turkey in 2014.

The family was initially supposed to settle in Saint John, but was redirected to Halifax when its New Brunswick sponsors learned of the girls' health requirements. That's when a Nova Scotia refugee sponsorship group jumped in to help keep the family in Halifax, closer to the specialized medical treatment available at the IWK Health Centre.

"Life has been three days in the hospital for dialysis and … getting to school only two days and the things that go along with that. Up until mid-December that's been their life," Linda Crilley, a member of the refugee sponsorship committee at Timberlea Baptist Church, told CBC Nova Scotia's Information Morning

Transplants within days of each other

Then on Dec. 12, a kidney became available for one of the girls. Just four days later, another kidney from a separate donor was transplanted into the other sister.

"It was thrilling. Truly, truly a miracle that within that short of time frame that two siblings would receive new organs. It's just been fantastic," said Crilley.

Muhammed Besir Ali snaps a photo as his daughter Zeyn receives a Valentine's surprise at the IWK Health Centre just days after arriving in Canada last year. (Submitted by Basim Sobeih)

She said the surgeries have been "so successful" the pair were released from hospital on Friday and are now "recovering well." 

The two girls are now looking forward to attending school full time, said Crilley. If all goes well, they can start going to school for half days next week and full time the week after next.

This means their mother, Haci Ali, and their father, Muhammed Besir Ali, can start to focus on full-time English lessons beginning Jan. 30, which will hopefully help them find work.

Before civil war erupted, Haci Ali worked as a lawyer and her husband as an engineer in Qurbani, Syria.

"I must say they have enjoyed being in Canada," said Crilley. 


Cassie Williams


Seasick marine biologist, turned journalist. I live in Halifax. I can be reached at, on Twitter @cassiehwilliams

With files from CBC's Information Morning