Nigerians Who Live On One kidney

Nigerians Who Live On One kidney

Currently, 36.8 million Nigerians are said to be suffering from various stages of kidney disease and there seems to be no hope in sight for some, writes ARUKAINO UMUKORO

Nigerians Who Live On One kidney

After discovering that he had high blood pressure and constant dizziness, Mr. Abiodun Adeyemi, finally heeded the advice of his friend, who is a medical doctor. He visited the General Hospital, Lagos, to have a proper medical check-up.

Before then, he had used all kinds of medications for what he thought was typhoid fever without any relief.

Following a series of tests, Adeyemi, a stockbroker and businessman, was given the shock of his life. It was a piece of information he never expected about the status of his health.

“I was told that I was suffering from chronic kidney failure. Before then, I was just going through pain and agony because the doctor who treated me earlier discovered that I had high blood pressure and just gave me some medications without running any tests to know what actually caused it.”

“I couldn’t walk from my door to the gate of my compound, every part of my body ached, so I couldn’t continue with my job,” he explained.

That was four years ago. As common with most cases related to renal failures, Adeyemi had to start undergoing kidney dialysis.

“I was going through three sessions of dialysis in a week at the cost of N30,000 per session. I did this for a year and three months,” he told SUNDAY PUNCH. In his battle to stay alive, he spent close to N5m, which was raised through contributions from his family members, close friends and church members.

He later lost his job and couldn’t do any other business because of his poor health. He also had to depend on support from his wife, who had to bear the extra burden of fending for the home.

Fortunately, his health improved afterwards, but his health bills also increased because of the continued dialysis and medication. He was later advised to have a kidney transplant.

“For one to undergo kidney transplant, that means the two kidneys have actually collapsed,” he stated.

Like Dr. Ebun Bamgboye, consultant nephrologist and Clinical Director, St. Nicholas Hospital, Lagos, explained, “Dialysis, which is one of the options for managing kidney failure, is a very expensive one, but unlike having a kidney transplant, you don’t need to come up with a lump sum all at once. However, if you compare the cost for one year and the cost of transplant, dialysis is more expensive,” he told SUNDAY PUNCH.

That was where Adeyemi got stuck. Having already spent a lot of money on dialysis, he didn’t have extra funds for a transplant. By then, some of his friends had abandoned him to his fate and stopped picking his calls. More importantly, he did not have a donor until a Good Samaritan walked into his life.

For the donor, who pleaded anonymity with SUNDAY PUNCH, he decided to donate one of his kidneys to Adeyemi because he wanted to save a life.

“Adeyemi is not a member of my family. We were not even close in the church. But I saw a brother who was in need. Money is not everything and what God gave me was free of charge. When I see a brother in need of something I could provide, why shouldn’t I save his life? It’s in the Bible that we should be our brother’s keeper,” said the donor.

Biblical injunctions or not, only a few would do the same. Adeyemi said he was lost for words the first day he met his donor.

“I was just crying. It is a big thing for one person to decide to donate his kidney to another man. He also cried, and the day we had our thanksgiving together, I could see he was overjoyed, happy that he had done something very great,” he said.

However, the donor’s wife, children and some relations were initially opposed to his decision when they became aware of it on the day he went to St. Nicholas Hospital. Only his boss at the office and the vicar of his church knew about his decision until then.

“My wife felt embarrassed at first, but I told her why I decided to do it. My children wanted to sue the church when they knew about it, until they were told by the vicar that I didn’t collect any money from them or the recipient. That made them calm down, because they had thought I had discussed it with my wife and decided to sell it for N5m, since they knew people do that,” the donor explained.

“They had told my wife, that I wanted to kill myself. But I thank God today, I’m flying. Now, they know that I did not do it for money and they are very happy about what I did,” said the donor, adding that he is 100 per cent healthy.

The recipient, Adeyemi, said it was difficult getting a donor.

“Getting a donor wasn’t easy. I met some people at the hospital who asked me to pay them to donate one of their kidneys,” he said.

Apart from the challenge of transplant relapse, sometimes it is difficult to get a compatible donor, even when the person can afford a kidney transplant, noted a nephrologist at a private hospital in Lagos; who told the story of a patient that needed a kidney transplant and brought all his family members for check-up. But none of them was certified healthy enough to donate one of their kidneys. “Some of them had hypertension and diabetes,” the nephrologist told SUNDAY PUNCH, under anonymity.

For Stella Emmanuel, who had to sell a property to finance her kidney transplant, the government should help in providing drugs for people who survive renal transplantation, so that they won’t have to travel out of the country each time they need medical attention. “I can tell you that having a renal transplant is no joke; you must keep taking drugs and do check-ups to make sure that the body accepts the new kidney. It is a strange organ and that is a whole lot of trauma. Worse still, if you cannot afford necessary drugs, the kidneys would fail again,” she said.

Emmanuel, whose donor was her 67-year-old mother, is also the founder of True Health Foundation, which she established to help underprivileged people, suffering from life-threatening illnesses, especially pregnant women with kidney diseases, access medical care and treatment.

While, Adeyemi’s friends, family and church members are rallying around to lend him support in cash and kind, only a few Nigerians with this condition have such support. “For those who don’t have such support, I’m sorry to say, it is like being at a dead end,” he said.

Unfortunately, his transplanted kidney has relapsed.

“I’m back on dialysis now. I wasn’t able to keep up with the cost of drugs to maintain the transplanted kidney. Then, I spent between N120,000 and N150,000 monthly on drugs,” he said.

The kidney donation business has become a thriving one.

There have been reports in the media about some Nigerians who travel to Malaysia through ‘kidney salesmen/agents’ to help them sell one of their kidneys.

SUNDAY PUNCH encountered one of such agents who claimed the price could be up to N15m.

“We pay for their travelling expenses and accommodation in Malaysia and India. The only thing that willing donors pay for is their passport,” said the agent, adding that it was a legitimate business.

“It is just based on trust; I can’t say anything more than that. I can only assure you that we are legitimate. I’ve done it for over 10 people already this year, and till today, they have not had any cause for alarm. This kind of deal is done underground and restricted, so they cannot say it in the open; we get most of their businesses from referrals,” he said.

The agent who pleaded anonymity added that the sellers are mostly young people who are less than 40 years old.

“We can get it from anybody as far as he or she doesn’t have a history of smoking or alcohol problems. We also verify the person’s health status before they travel out by conducting medical tests on them,” he explained. He also claimed that agents also accompany the person to the destination (Malaysia or India) and they are present during the whole operation ‘to ensure there are no issues at all.’

However, Dr. Bamgboye expressed worry over the increase in the number of Nigerians going abroad to sell their body organs.

“The increasing trend where Nigerians donate an organ for a fee has been of some concern to us in the Nigerian Association of Nephrologists,” noted Dr. Bamgboye, who is also its chairman. He said Pakistan and the Philippines used to be the popular destinations for Nigerians. Some years back, in these countries, one could find a kidney donor for as low as $500 (N75,000)

“But nobody goes to Pakistan now because it’s like a war zone,” he explained.

In 2008, the International Society of Nephrology and the Transplantation Society came together in Istanbul, Turkey, at a summit organised by the World Health Organisation on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism. It produced the Istanbul Declaration, a framework to govern organ donation and transplantation activities around the world.

The Declaration called on the medical community, especially transplant surgeons and nephrologists, to join the WHO to put pressure on health ministries in various countries with a transplantation program to eliminate organ trafficking and transplant tourism.

“The legacy of transplantation is threatened by organ trafficking and transplant tourism. The Istanbul Declaration aims to combat these activities and preserve the nobility of organ donation. The success of transplantation as a life-saving treatment does not require, nor justify victimising the world’s poor as a source of organs for the rich,” noted the Steering Committee of the Istanbul Summit.

Dr. Bamgboye said he was one of the two Nigerians who represented the country at the summit.

“The Declaration forbids commercial kidney transplantation, transplant tourism, or organ donation for a fee. This is now recognised worldwide as something that should not be done by anybody and Nigerian doctors, being part of that declaration, have been trying to make rules in Nigeria and ensure that the Senate and House of Representatives join the rest of the world to promulgate that act. Most countries have enacted it,” he noted.

Beyond commercial kidney transplantation, there is the need for the country to improve its health care system and health insurance for the scheme to handle cases such as these, noted Dr. Olugbenga Awobusuyi, a consultant nephrologist and kidney specialist.

“There are many countries which are not as rich as Nigeria, but their health care system is better than what we have in Nigeria because the ruling class and those who are responsible for health issues have actually taken the right decisions to enable people benefit from quality health care system,” Awobusuyi said.

According to statistics, there are currently 36.8 million Nigerians (23 per cent of the total population) suffering from different forms of kidney disorder while an estimated 15,000 new patients are diagnosed every year.

Like 19-year-old Bayo Idowu, an accounting student of the Tai Solarin University of Education, Ogun State, who has been diagnosed with a renal problem, although his kidneys are said to be functioning properly, his father said the doctors at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital diagnosed that Bayo’s kidney was leaking protein to his urine.

“It started in 2011. This is the fifth time he is being admitted to the hospital for treatment,” he said.

“I cannot pass out urine very well because all my bladders are blocked. Sometimes this condition lasts for three weeks or three days, and then parts of my body are swollen. I missed four papers during the last examination in school. Our semester examination is supposed to begin next week but I was told that lecturers are going on strike.” said Bayo, with difficulty, when our correspondent met him at LASUTH.

“Although the doctors told me there was no kidney failure, they said it has an infection and have advised that Bayo undergo a biopsy test to ascertain how the infection has damaged the kidney. Since it started, I have spent more than N1 million for tests, scans and treatments at different hospitals. It has affected my business adversely. The biopsy would cost N80,000 and I don’t have any money again,” said the father, who sells motor spare parts in Lagos. He called on good-hearted Nigerians to help his son.

“I don’t want to lose my boy. I also want him to continue his academics. I need assistance from Nigerians,” he pleaded.

Cases like Bayo’s may be the reason why Dr. Bamgboye said that Nigerian patients are faced with many challenges in terms of treatment.

The rise in the number of Nigerians with some forms of kidney disorder may be due to the growing cases of hypertension and diabetes in the country, which are not managed properly, noted Dr. Awobusuyi.

“Common causes are hypertension and diabetes. Kidney failure can also result if chronic infections which cause chronic glomerulonephritis, and complicated infections like Hepatitis A and B, HIV/AIDS and even malaria, are not managed properly. The usage of some medical drugs, even native medications and herbs, have been known to cause kidney disease, a common one is gentamycin antibiotics, (in large doses),” he explained, adding that kidney diseases can affect anyone, no matter the age.

There are currently seven hospitals in the country equipped for kidney transplant. They include St. Nicholas, Lagos; University of Ife Teaching Hospital; Bayero University Teaching Hospital, Kano; University College Teaching Hospital, Ibadan. Other centres are in Ilorin, Maiduguri and Lagos University Teaching Hospital, which carried out their first kidney transplants last year.

According to Dr. Bamgboye, St. Nicholas carried out the first kidney transplant in Nigeria in 2000 and since then it has done 125 successful transplants.

Due to the lack of health centres with quality facilities for kidney transplantation and treatment in the country, many now travel abroad to have it done.

That’s why even the rich and famous also cry. Recently, popular and talented singer, songwriter and music producer Babatunde David Okungbowa, aka OJB Jezreel, was reported to have suffered a kidney failure and needed a transplant that would cost N16 million. Some of his friends and fellow celebrities have already made donations to help him. Others have taken to the social media and online portals to raise money for him.

However, for millions of other Nigerians with similar condition but who have never hugged the limelight, it may be a long road to recovery, if any at all.

Related news

Power Oil health camp partners with Lagos NYSC

Power Oil health camp partners with Lagos NYSC

Power Oil health camp partners with Lagos NYSC