'How my mother donated her kidney to me'

THE PUNCH Newspaper

So many people love their mothers because they brought them into this world and nurtured them till they attained the age of accountability. But for Stella Emmanuel, a Lagos State-based banker and founder of True Health Foundation, she loves her mother for the above-mentioned reasons and more -for giving her another lease of life when she had chronic kidney failure.

In a society where kidney donors do not come at the snap of the fingers, where so many die due to the fact that they didn’t see anybody who was pathetic enough to donate one of their kidneys for the survival of somebody in dire need of one, Emmanuel has so many reasons to thank her mother for coming to her aid by giving her one of her kidneys.

Prior to her healing, Emmanuel told Saturday Punch that she went through three years of trauma and illness. Her situation came unannounced four years ago, when she least expected it. The banker said she had severe headache which she never expected could be as a result of kidney failure.

“It was actually on a Christmas Eve. I had a terrible headache. It was so bad that I thought this could be what people who have migraine go through,” she said.

And because the headache was so unusual, Emmanuel said she had to go to the doctor who found out that her blood pressure was high.

“And because my blood pressure was very high, they said I had to stay back in the hospital to do some further tests but I had to come back home. I had to go back to work. Even when I went back to work, I still wasn’t myself. I was always tired. If I climb the stairs, I would be out of breath. I started bloating.”

Of course, with the way she was getting bloated, Emmanuel said she didn’t need anybody to tell her to return to the hospital.

“They gave me malaria treatment. I was also treated for typhoid which I was convinced I didn’t have.”

But Emmanuel said even with all the malaria and typhoid treatments, she didn’t get any better and so more and more tests were conducted before it was finally discovered that she had kidney failure.

“The kidney helps to remove excess fluids in the body. It also helps to eliminate toxins in the body. When those toxins are not eliminated, they remain in your system and you will have nausea. That was exactly what happened to me,” she said.

Emmanuel said she still didn’t know how she came about the sickness.

“I still don’t know how I got the sickness. In my case, the cause of the failure still remains unknown. We all need to take better care of ourselves. I don’t know how many of us will, ordinarily, do an annual medical check up. As individuals, just don’t wait for something to happen to you before you go for a check up. Who knows, I might have had a problem until it got to this point,” she said.

And since she discovered her kidneys weren’t performing their natural functions, Emmanuel had to go for dialysis.

“I had to be on dialysis for three years. Each dialysis cost N35, 000 and I had to have three sessions in a week. If you do the mathematics, you will find out it is quite high. But I had no choice. I was doing the dialysis and as such, what my kidney couldn’t do, the dialysis machines were doing them,” she said.

Talking about what she went through during those years of trauma, Emmanuel said it wasn’t a great experience.

“It wasn’t a good experience. I was generally tired. I put on so much weight. It wasn’t fat but just as a result of the fluid that I was retaining. I might have had to travel for work and if I did have to travel, I had to make arrangement to have dialysis session wherever I was. I missed the session once or thereabout and I felt sick. I had to go back and have my session. To be honest, you don’t even need a doctor to tell you that you ought not to miss your session. You would find out that you would be throwing up. Your eyes gored. It is not a pleasant experience at all. Your body will certainly demand for dialysis. For the people who were not having their regular sessions, it is simply because they cannot afford it. These people are so bloated and they are always panting. Their families go around trying to get money.”

“At times, late in the night, I would ask myself why I was going though all that. I always say why me. But then, if not me, who would I have wanted it to be? Who deserves to have such sickness? But when you are confronted with issues like this, your mental health is actually what drives your physical health. The fact that I had to go through with the ordeal was a burden. The sessions are not painful but they are very tiring. I had employers who were supportive. I would go to work and they were lenient enough to allow me go for my sessions from work. There is no nice way of putting it, if I hadn’t been able to afford the dialysis and if I hadn’t found a donor, I wouldn’t have survived it. The matter-of-fact is if you have renal failure, and you are not dialysing and you don’t have a transplant, you will die,” she said.

And such would have been her lot if not for the love of her mother, who Emmanuel said, gave her another shot at living.

“My mother donated her kidney. A friend of mine had also offered. But my mum did some tests and found out that she and I were compatible. She wanted a permanent solution to what I was going through. Sometimes, I felt she was even more worried and perplexed about the situation more than me. I found out that if I was in pains, I would try to pretend so that she would not know the enormity of the situation. I am so thankful to her for she eventually gave me a second lease of life. I don’t even feel like somebody who has just one kidney. I can’t tell the difference again. Somebody asked me if I would donate a kidney but I said, sorry, I only have one. I am very strong. You just need one kidney to survive. God in His wisdom gave us two. It didn’t occur to me that my mother would be my match. She offered and I am glad. I will always be grateful to her,” she said.

Now, Emmanuel doesn’t look like somebody who has had a near death contact with kidney failure all thanks to her being able to afford the dialysis and getting a donor.

But from her experience, the banker said she discovered that so many people she met during the dialysis session died along the way.

“I found out that some of the people who were dialysing as at the time I was are no longer alive. Some of them could not continue with the requirement. It is very expensive and not everybody had the opportunity I had.”

And based on that, she birthed her foundation, True Health Foundation.

“Having had to deal personally with chronic kidney failure, I was awakened to the fact that though having passed through quite a distressful experience, I was indeed more fortunate than others around me who had even passed on due to their inability to afford the required medical care,” she said.

As such, she told Saturday Punch that her foundation, alongside Virtual Xchange, is bringing an international gospel art, Chante Moore, to headline a concert aimed at raising funds for the less privileged who have renal failure and who cannot afford dialysis sessions.

The charity concert, which will take place today in Lagos, will also have some Nigerian acts including pop sensation, Whiz-kid and label boss, Banky W, performing.


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