Knowing more about having kidney problems
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - June 27, 2019 - 12:00am

Last Tuesday, I read a very important article that asked the question “Are you willing to save a life by donating an organ?” This article came out from Lai S. Reyes of “Ooh La Lai” as the main article of The Philippine STAR’s Lifestyle Health & Family page edited by Millet Martinez Mananquil. I was very interested in this article for the reason that two years ago, I too succumbed to End Stage Renal Disease, a medical condition so foreign to me, simply because before this problem occurred, I was never hospitalized for any reason and the only time I slept in the hospital was when my children were born. But then my luck turned around.

So when the prospect of having a kidney failure appeared, after a couple of months of denial, I listened to my doctors, Dr. Alvin Roxas and Dr. Juliet Noel, that if I opted for a pre-emptive kidney transplant, my recovery would be much better than a patient that went through kidney dialysis. I was lucky to find a donor and had my kidney transplant on Nov. 8, 2016 at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City. Two years later, I’m still very much around even at 68 years of age. And since I’ve been writing on kidney issues and have received countless emails in response to my articles, which have somehow helped our readers cope with a similar kidney problem. I call it my advocacy.

Anyway, to answer the question posed in Lai S. Reyes article last Tuesday, allow me to quote certain points or excerpts from her article, “Donating one of your kidneys is not a death sentence. You can still live a fruitful, meaningful life and save another person’s life. Kidney disease does not only affect the patient, it is a burden carried by the entire family. Supporting a family member with renal disease — financially and emotionally — definitely changes one’s life.”

“Every year, more than 25,000 new patients suffer from kidney failure because of diabetes or high-blood pressure,” shared Dr. Romina Danguillan, organizing committee lead of the Renal Gift Allowing Life for Others (Regalo). “And the statistics increase by 10 to 15 percent.” To date, 37,000 patients with renal failure are undergoing hemodialysis – which is a temporary relief  – compared to those who opted for a kidney transplant. For patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), a kidney transplant is often the only hope for survival.” However what I found rather disturbing in that article by Dr. Danguillan is the reality today as she said, “The number of patients with ESRD in the country is increasing. Unfortunately, the number of kidneys from living and deceased donors remains dismally low.”

Thankfully, we have the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), which has been successfully performing kidney transplantation since 1974. As what Dr. Joselito Chavez, deputy executive director for medical services of NKTI pointed out, “PhilHealth recognizes the importance of providing financial assistance to families. It covers each patient with end-stage renal disease with P600,000 transplantation coverage.” Indeed, PhilHealth’s expanded coverage in supporting patients with kidney failure has increased through the years, and I submit that having my operation at the VSMC, it was a great surprise for me to have been supported by PhilHealth.

I also talked on the phone with former Health Secretary Dr. Enrique Ona of NKTI who appreciated my articles on the issue of kidney problems which he believe have helped a lot of NKTI patients. At this point, we need to listen to what Dr. Danguillan had to say about the problems that Filipinos have with their kidneys when she said,  “We need to do something about this.” She added “In a research conducted by the Health Technology Assessment Group of the Department of Health (DOH), it showed that kidney transplant gives the highest quality of life and benefits to patients compared to dialysis treatment.

Yes, I’m writing this piece to support the celebration of National Kidney Month this June and to advocate for organ donation and kidney transplantation, an more importantly to be aware of the need of spreading awareness about the importance of donating one’s organ. As my good friend, former Health Secretary Enrique Ona said, “Organ donation, as a concept, is not still not easy to understand for most individuals.” He said that laws have been enacted to prevent organ trafficking.

Organ donors mostly come from the poor sector and yet Ona said they cannot be given token of gratitude for it could be perceived as compensation, which is prohibited under the law. However, they were too strict and must be revisited and I totally agree with Dr. Ona. Mind you so many questions remain in the minds of those whose kidneys have been affected. The first that people want to know is how much would a dialysis or kidney transplant cost? But for me, the main issue is where to get a willing donor? Let’s hope the new Congress can come up with a new law on this.

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