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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Dialysis saving lives as world commemorates World Kidney Day

Story by Abigirl Tembo Health Editor

Cases of renal failure have become rampant in the world and Zimbabwe has not been spared, as more people are being diagnosed with the chronic ailment and now relying on dialysis for survival.

“Without dialysis I am sure I would be dead by now,” says 40-year-old Vashco Mukanangana of Budiriro, Harare, who has suffered from kidney ailment for the past 23 years.

Mukanangana is now at the end stage of the renal disease, a condition which requires him to go for dialysis sessions twice per week for five hours per session as his kidneys can no longer function normally.

“In 2000 I was doing my Advanced Level and on a certain day I just woke up with a swollen face and people thought I had mumps. A few days later, the whole body was now swollen and that’s when I went to seek medical attention, but nothing improved. 

“I then went to see a doctor in Warren Park who then diagnosed me with glomerulonephritis because I was passing out protein and blood in my urine. I also developed hypertension, so they put me on BP drugs. They tried to manage the condition for about a year. What was happening now was my body was swelling and I had no appetite. They then told me that I had advanced renal failure and they put me again on dialysis. It has always been like that for the past 20 years. I go for dialysis twice a week, Mondays and Thursdays for five hours per session,” he says.

From dropping out of school to contracting other infections along the way, the condition has altered his way of life.

“My life has been turned upside down completely because I had plans… I wanted to go to school and do a degree in economics, but I couldn’t. I was doing A Level then at a rural  boarding school so I had to move closer to where the doctors are so that they would be able to monitor me. So I literally dropped out of school. I wrote my A Levels although I didn’t come out very well. The clutches are part of the complications associated with chronic renal failure. You will have weak bones so once you have chronic renal failure, you need to be taking some calcium supplements to help strengthen the bones. So with time on the dialysis, most patients will eventually have weak bones and they will need walking clutches, but on top of that 2 years, I was involved in a road traffic accident and I broke two of my legs so it actually worsened a situation which was already there,” Mukanangana says.

Apart from it being a physically exhausting procedure, dialysis is also financially draining.

“Dialysis is a very expensive treatment, in fact, they call it a rich man’s disease. A lot of money is required to manage a patient who needs dialysis because sometimes you go to the dialysis unit and they tell you they don’t have some consumables and you will have to fork out money from your pockets, so it’s one of the challenges we face. We also need calcium supplements. You also need blood transfusion because most dialysis patients are anaemic,” he explains.

According to nephrologist Dr Privy Charambira, the evolving of science and medicine has enabled people like Vashco who are suffering from end stage renal disease to live a longer and better life.

“A person on dialysis can actually live a long and quiet a comfortable life because now we have different modes of dialysis. You can be on haemodialysis where you need to visit a health care facility maybe twice or three times a week or you can be on peritonial dialysis where you are actually receiving your dialysis at home. Now it’s even better because we have cyclers where you put yourself on a cycler you get your dialysis throughout the night then the following morning you go to work. If it is a child, they actually go to school.

She adds, “Dialysis is really crucial for patients who would have been diagnosed with end stage kidney disease as you would know the main function of the kidney is to work like a washing machine of the body because it’s there to remove all the excess water, salts, some of the toxins that one would have taken in. So if you don’t have an exit for all those extra things which are supposed to have been removed by the kidney, they are going to accumulate and the patient will then come in with all those electrolytes derangements and fluid overload and inevitably they are going to die, so dialysis is really necessary.”

As the world commemorates World Kidney Day, specialists in the area are calling for preventative measures and screening for adults and children to ensure kidney disease is picked up earlier and corrected.

With more than one thousand cases of kidney disease being recorded in Zimbabwe each year, government is chipping in to reduce the burden for affected patients through providing haemodialysis services for free in all government hospitals.

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