More than a kidney transplant

2010-10-25
THISDAY Newspaper- Michael Olugbode

Man is born naturally selfish and covets not only what is his but what belongs to others, including that of his brethren. But one young man, Abubakar Usman, wrote his name in gold recently, when he made the supreme sacrifice of giving a part of himself, his kidney to be specific, to a brother who was dying. For Abubakar, he thought he only gave a kidney and the gift of life to a brother who was in need of one. But no, it was much more. His was a gift to a nation used to mainly negative stories emanating from its healthcare sector.
Besides, Abubakar’s gift propelled Nigeria into the league of countries, where a kidney transplant was successfully carried out by solely local doctors. It also established the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital as a healthcare facility of note and gave the medical team involved in the surgery a sense of pride and fulfillment.

Parents’ Misgivings…
Abubakar, 27, was motivated to donate one kidney to his elder brother, Suleiman Usman, 31, whom he had watched slipping away from this earth for days. Their parents had spent an arm and a leg to keep their ailing son as comfortable as possible and had fought his looming death without success. In fact, they had given up hope that Suleiman would survive his ordeal and had started reconciling themselves to the inevitable.


Though the parents kept expending resource on Suleiman, at some point they did it to fulfill all righteousness as dutiful parents who were there for their son until the very end. To add to their parents’ agony, the doctors at the hospital asked if they could get someone to donate one kidney to save their son from an early grave, a prospect they found completely alien in Nigeria.
They eschewed the advice and considered it preposterous believing that no individual would be willing to give up a part of him/herself, at least not in this clime. Their confusion was further compounded over where to find a donor to donate a kidney and could possibly die in place of their son. It was in this confused state that they lamented their woes to their other son, Abubakar.

Brotherly Love…
Fortunately, Abubakar did not have the same misgivings as his parents. He embarked on some research to ascertain the implications of donating one of his kidneys to his brother. He also went to see the doctors treating Suleiman for further enlightenment and was told that a person only needed one healthy kidney to live a normal life. He was told categorically that if he elected to donate his kidney, ultimately, he would be helping to give back life to the recipient.


Abubakar went home to his parents, informing them that he was willing to take the plunge by donating his kidney to his brother. The parents wept profusely, fearing that they could lose both sons through the ordeal. But he remained undeterred and took his time to convince them that they would gain both of them if he donated his kidney to his dying brother.


He later made himself available for the necessary tests and subsequent operation that brought further apprehension among members of his family. The transplant, nonetheless, proved to be successful, and the family became delirious with the news that none of their sons lost their lives. Although Suleiman was still in the intensive care unit when this newspaper paid a visit to the hospital, Abubakar was seen beaming with smiles for having given his brother life.


According to him, he said he was moved to take the heroic step because he had to do everything within his power to ensure that his brother did not die. He added that he was encouraged by the need to put smile on the faces of his family members having been assured by the physicians that the donation did not pose any danger to his health.
“I wanted my brother to live and be healthy; hence, I decided to donate one of my kidneys. I was assured by the doctors that nothing negative will happen to me health-wise as a result of my donation, more so as my parents and other family members had been very unhappy with my brother’s condition.”

Avoiding Renal Diseases…
Speaking to journalists on the successful kidney transplant, Professor Adewale Akinsola, who is the nation’s foremost Nephrologist and led the team of doctors, some of whom were his former students during the ground-breaking transplant, gave some insight into the causes, care, management and prevention of renal diseases, otherwise known as kidney disease. He said one out of every five humans might be at risk of a kidney disease but that the disease can be prevented.


Akinsola stressed that individuals can have healthy kidneys and even sustain them, if they watched their weight, undertook regular exercise, maintained a healthy diet, reduced and avoided smoking, drink in moderation, and avoided stressful living. He added that routine tests for diabetes and regular medical check-ups also help to detect the disease early. He added that people should also avoid excessive ingestion of painkillers, and avoid the indiscriminate intake of traditional medication, as all these could precipitate renal diseases.


Akinsola, once Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife) observed that it is part of God’s kindness to the human race that everyone is blessed with two kidneys which function together in sickness and in health. “No single kidney works in isolation of the other. But one can still live a normal healthy life without one of the pair.”
He further noted that even though some medical scientists have conducted experiments with the possibility of breeding monkeys that could donate universal kidneys to human beings, the human to human transplant is still considered the best form of intervention for patients with infected kidneys.


The Nephrological medical practitioner further explained that renal diseases do not come knocking on door, but that “many people who walk the streets looking healthy might not know that they have any problem with their kidneys until the disease reaches an advanced stage.”


The prevalence of kidney diseases, he noted, is about 15 percent of the world population, which means that it is not until about 50 percent of the kidney is at risk, people don’t get to know that they might have problems with their kidneys. “Yet, usually, only one percent of kidney patients come to the hospital when 50 percent of the kidneys have been damaged,” he observed.
He said for a person who is undergoing renal care, there are three modalities for providing such a patient with treatment. They are by providing drugs; resorting to an artificial kidney (using dialysis machine) to purify the blood, which he said is usually very “cumbersome and expensive”; and through a transplant from a blood donor relative, which is the last if not the best method for curing renal diseases.


The professor, while pointing out that the kidney is a wonderful and complex organ, further explained that people with irrevocably damaged kidneys are usually confined to hospitals where they have to await for possible transplants, or they die searching for one. Irrevocably damaged kidneys, he pointed out, causes excessive accumulation of fluid and other chemicals like urine in the body, leads to high blood pressure and a reduction in blood production, urine reduction, lack of energy, excretion of protein into the blood stream, restlessness, and aches and pains all over the body.


Akinsola, who said “when you offer a piece of kidney to somebody, what you have done is that you have offered the gift of life; without it no man can survive,” stressed that the purpose of the kidney is to excrete waste from the body. “It is like the acid in the battery and must not run flat. The kidney balances the waste in the body, it must not run down or high.”

Costly Procedure…
He disclosed the procedure costs about N2 million or more to have a transplant but pleaded with the government to provide the needed framework and funding in order to facilitate widespread kidney transplants in the country. However, it is instructive that the successful operation carried out on the Usmans, which cost some N4 million was done free of charge by the teaching hospital as the institution had its sights on getting its name in the record books.


According to the departing Chief Medical Director of UMTH, Professor Uthman Kyari, “This was the first of such operations being executed by the hospital since its establishment three decades ago.” He added that the management in its quest to reduce the burden of patients having to incur unreasonable medical bills by travelling abroad for medical treatment is already looking for ways to build on its present achievement.


The CMD, who was visibly pleased to be part of the success story, stated that “the collaborative effort that produced this achievement will be a continuous exercise until the hospital team (UMTH) can perform such operations successfully on its own.” He called on federal and state governments to assist kidney centers across the country with funds in order to subsidize the cost of the operation for people suffering from kidney related problems.

Collaborative Effort…
Professor Kyari had earlier revealed that the collaboration for the transplant was between UMTH, Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital and Aminu Kano University Teaching Hospital. He explained that UMTH decided to go for local collaborators instead of foreign personnel, in order to encourage local resources. In this regard, the hospital inaugurated the transplant committee about nine months ago.
Kyari proudly explained that this was the first wholly indigenous transplant in the country, as no foreigner was involved during the procedure. He further called on all stakeholders to encourage the sustenance of the exercise by providing the enabling environment.
The group of medical experts involved in the procedure included Professor Adewale Akinsola, Dr. T. Badmus, Dr. F.A. Arogundade, Dr. F. Faponle, Mrs. O.F. Olarinoye and Mr. K.N. Badru from the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hopspital, while Dr. Sani Alhassan and Dr. Bappa Adamu came from Aminu Kano University Teach Hospital. The team from the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital included Dr. William Wudiri, Dr. Ibrahim Ummate, Dr. A.G. Ibrahim, Dr. A. Bakari, and Dr. Babayo Usman, among others.
Through the effort of these medical experts, Suleiman Usman, his brother and the rest of his family have been given a new lease, for which they will eternally be grateful.


 

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