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Kidney Awareness Week

Ten thousand South Africans die of kidney disease every year, 70-80% of these deaths are preventable[i]. The vast majority of South Africans know very little about kidney health and Chronic Kidney Disease. In many cases the early symptoms are vague and the serious symptoms appear when it’s already too late – once the patient is already in renal failure.

As the first place to successfully perform a combined liver and kidney transplant on a child, the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital is passionate about paediatric kidney health. The renal ward at the Hospital has afforded many children the opportunity to receive world-class health care ranging emergency care to dialysis and transplants.

One life that has been forever changed by the renal ward at Red Cross Children’s Hospital is that of two-year-old Isabella.

Isabella was born with a form of kidney disease called Nephrotic Syndrome or “Leaky Kidneys”. Professor Mignon McCulloch, Paediatric Nephrologist and Senior Consultant for the paediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU), explains that Isabella’s kidneys leak protein which causes them to swell.

Doctors established that Isabella had to have one of her kidneys removed to prevent her condition from affecting her growth. Her road to recovery has been as long as it has been challenging. In addition to regular stays in the paediatric ICU, Isabella has also had to receive regular dialysis so that her remaining kidney continues to function.

Chantal, who sleeps with her daughter in the isolation unit in the renal ward, says it’s very hard when her daughter is in the ICU. “When she is in intensive care, I can’t sleep next to her because the babies need to be near equipment and monitors. I know that she is being looked after, but I prefer it when I can be with her constantly.”

Soon after Isabella received a new kidney, her family was forced to face another challenge: confronting the heart-breaking reality that even with this new kidney, their youngest daughter’s condition was still not improving.

Chantal went through a myriad of tests to determine whether she would be able to provide her daughter with a healthy kidney. After months of waiting, they finally received some positive news, Chantal was a match and would be able to donate one of her kidneys to her beautiful little girl.

The kidney transplant finally took place on Wednesday 21st June 2017.

The day after the operation, Chantal was in an unbearable amount pain. She battled to move for days after the surgery. The only thing that got her through the pain was knowing that her daughter’s kidney transplant had been a complete success.

While Chantal has not left her daughter’s side for the past 8 months, she is elated at the idea of finally spending time with her two older children and having her family together again.

“These past eight months have been a learning experience for me and if I had to do it all over again, I would. I have received such great support and have helped so many other mothers during their time in the Hospital. We have become a family and the support I still receive has been so great,”

–    Chantal.

South Africa has one of the highest incidences of renal failure in Africa. More than 2500 patients out of 5000 patients with end-stage renal failure are awaiting transplantation. The Red Cross Children’s Hospital is one of the local facilities making an effort to curb these drastic statistics.

[i] National Kidney Foundation – http://www.nkf.org.za/default.htm


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