Nephrologist Wants More Of Govt Intervention For Kidney Treatment

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…. Says Organ Transplant Hampered By Religious Beliefs, Tradition

Saidat Alausa

Professor of Medicine, Lagos State University College of Medicine, LASUCOM, Prof. Jacob Awobusuyi has said that government needs to take the awareness and treatment of Kidney disease as a matter of urgency especially in sustaining patients with this problem during dialysis.

Speaking while delivering the 72nd inaugural lecture series of the Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo entitled: ‘The Body is the Hero: The Expedition of a Guardian of Trouble Kidneys Through the Valley of Death’ on Tuesday, Prof Awobusuyi said that many individuals with this disease cannot afford the treatment and that is why government needs to come to their aids through health insurance, subsidized drugs and equipping more centers to ensure they function properly.

“Government can come in, in many ways, all over the world, individuals don’t sustain kidney treatment, governments come in even in some African countries, in the developed countries government place substantial role in the treatment of kidney disease because not all patient can afford transplantation, it costs about N8million and they need money to maintain drugs too”.

Identifying hypertension and diabetes as major cause of kidney disease, Prof Awobusuyi said anyone with these diseases needs to see the doctor on a regular basis, have them controlled and ensure they take care of themselves especially when he or she is above 40 years of age.

“Another thing you must do is that you must eat a healthy diet, you must live a healthy lifestyle and you must be conscious of your health. If you are above forty I advise you to regularly go for screening so that the diseases could be detected early and treated as early as possible,” he added.

Awobusuyi who is also the Dean, Faculty of Clinical Sciences of the college during the lecture highlighted his contributions to medical education and to the community saying that training of medical students, doctors, nurses and other allied professionals has been his major contribution to human resources for health development in Nigeria.

“I teach medical students the core subjects of kidney diseases, acid-base disturbances and electrolyte imbalance; I provide them with the necessary guidance in the application of the acquired classroom knowledge to treat real patients in the wards, in the clinics, and in the emergency rooms.

“I broke the ice on the provision of dialysis for HIV infected patients in Nigeria and today dialysis for HIV infected patients has become routine in most centers in the country. Some of these patients have been transplanted, a hundred lives have been saved and more will continue to get saved,” he disclosed.

He said the decision to dialyze a young man infected with HIV, saving him from the stronghold of death was one of the decisions taken in his career that has changed clinical practice in the country.

Disclosing that research interests and publications in the college have shifted towards organ transplantation; the kidney disease expert, however, said the establishment of a Renal Transplant Program in LASUTH has been a major landmark in his professional career.

“However, with success comes challenges, the first challenge is that many potential candidates for renal transplantation do not have eligible donor, the second is the fact that many of our patients coming forward for inclusion into the transplant program cannot afford the cost of kidney transplantation but the two challenges though not unique to our center, they are certainly the next hurdles to scale.”

On future plans, Awobusuyi said one thing that has dominated his consciousness is the dream of the gift of life, “making the dead give life to the living through the establishment of a cadaveric organ donation transplantation program in Nigeria.

He said though, this is a well-trodden path in some parts of the world, in Nigeria and indeed in most of the African continent, there exists no path.

The Professor of Medicine explained that Cadaveric organ transplantation entails harvesting an organ from a brain or cardiac dead donor and transplanting the organ into a recipient with organ failure.“However Cadaveric organ transplantation is hampered by religious beliefs, cultural traditions, social norms and ethical principles.

“There is no doubt that there are many rivers to cross in order to make this a reality but if the generality of Nigerians realize that a single donor can save up to eight lives, then the benefits of having a cadaveric transplant program in the country would be immediately obvious.

Pointing to a major challenge of illegal organ sales and trafficking in some countries, the lecturer said the extent of this problem in Nigeria is unknown, but many indicators point to its presence here in Nigeria.

 “Having a strictly regulated transplantation program in the country will surely minimize such activities,” he assured.

“My colleagues and I in the Lagos Nephrology forum have started walking, we have started the journey into the future, creating paths that would have tracks to be threaded by the transplant community and the journey would transform organ transplantation in the country.” BV

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