they want is to live a few more years’
An appeal to help those stricken with kidney
diseases in the North Central Province
It is as usual another busy morning at the Nephrology
clinic. There is, as always, a motley crowd of patients, their ages
ranging from less than one year to over eighty. The patients who
have undergone renal transplants can be identified by the masks
There are yet others who are not so lucky, and
have to await their turn – waiting for donors with the correct
tissue type. The majority of these patients look ill. Some of them
have the typical pallid look of a patient in renal failure, yet
others are breathless, with fluid collecting in their lungs, or
they may present with swelling of the face, abdomen or feet. The
majority of these patients are kept alive by dialysis. The dialysis
machines do the work of normal kidneys, purifying the blood. These
patients can be identified by the tube inserted into the main vein
of the neck.
|The Kandy Unit: Started in 2001 it has treated
over 5000 patients and completed 200 transplants
Then there are the contingents of patients from
the villages in the dry zone, many of them ‘border’
villages with lyrical names – Madawatchiya, Medirigiriya,
Girendala Kotte, Dehiwattekandiya, Siyambalagama, -names which conjure
up idyllic rural scenes of paddy fields and blossoming lotuses,
whereas in reality, an unseen danger lurks. The unseen monster of
kidney disease strikes these poor peasants, in the prime of life.
These people arrive in the clinic before dawn
and patiently await their turn. They have been selected, on the
basis of an initial examination of urine, by the indefatigable consultant
of the Unit, who makes bi-weekly trips down to the villages. They
have arrived now to have their condition confirmed by a scan and
or renal biopsy. These ‘patients’ are healthy young
adults, in the main ranging from 15 to 40 years- so far, symptom
less. About 5-10% of the population of the North Central Province
(NCP) has some evidence of chronic renal disease, which is responsible
for the greatest number of deaths at the Anuradhapura hospital.
|An artist’s impression of the Anuradhapura
To get back to the never-ending stream of patients
at the clinic, it is impossible to imagine the anguish of the mother,
who has brought along three healthy sons, hoping against hope that
their kidneys are normal. Her husband and one son have already died
of chronic renal failure. So many young farmers arrive struck down
by renal failure (in the prime of life). Even after a renal transplant,
they will not be able to resume their normal life, cultivating their
fields. So many cheerful young people, of both sexes, present with
recently diagnosed end stage renal disease, resigned to their fate,
patiently awaiting a donor.
In Kandy, the Nephrology and Renal Transplant
Unit was completed in 2001, and has treated over 5000 patients and
completed two hundred transplants to date. Dialysis, surgery and
post transplant medication is completely free of charge –
the total cost per patient can be well over Rs.1,000,000.
Over 55% of the patients attending the transplant
unit in Kandy are from the NCP. Many of them are too poor to find
the bus fare to travel to Kandy resulting in a number of them resigning
themselves to a premature death. To help these unfortunate patients
the National Kidney Foundation has embarked on a project to establish
a Renal Care and Renal Research Centre in Anuradhapura at a cost
of Rupees 170 million. As was the case with the Transplant Unit
in Kandy, the cost was borne by voluntary contributions together
with state funding. Sadly, the Unit at Anuradhapura has run into
difficulties, as the funding has dried up.
While most of the construction work in the six-storied
building has been completed, funds are urgently needed for the installation
of lifts, air-conditioning, piped medical gas systems and medical
equipment including 24 haemodialysis machines.
A dialysis machine costs approximately Rs.2 million.
There is a desperate need for contributions which should be sent
to: ‘The National Kidney Foundation of Sri Lanka, Governor’s
Secretariat, Kandy, Sri Lanka.’: Tel/Fax: 081 2222924. Payment
by cheque to Bank of Ceylon, Kandy – Ac.No. 0000034040.
Maybe, the next time you settle a bill at a five
star hotel or gourmet restaurant, costing anything up to Rs.5,000
a head, or fork out a tidy sum for a concert to hear the latest
‘imported’ performer, spare a thought for your less
fortunate brethren of the NCP whose only wish and fervent prayer
is, to be able to live a few more years and bring up their children.