A woman who gave her brother a second chance at life celebrates her four-year milestone as a living donor this week, capping off a month of blanket and sock donations to 250 dialysis patients, courtesy of the Bahamas Kidney Association (BKA).
“Since patients spend a lot of time in dialysis centers and it gets cold at times, this was just one way to give back to let them know we are here and we care. We wanted patients to feel our presence and know that we are working to help support them,” said kidney transplant donor and BKA President Tamika Roberts.
Roberts and her brother, Antonio, captured the public spotlight back in 2018, after a life-changing kidney transplant. Ms Roberts donated the organ to her younger sibling after the married, father of two experienced renal failure in 2017. Today, both are doing well – each living off just one kidney.
Healthy and grateful for life post-surgery, the siblings went in search of an organization which catered to patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). They connected with nephrologist Dr Ada Thompson, president of the dormant Bahamas Kidney Foundation. She suggested they revive it. Ms Roberts was game and so a new Bahamas Kidney Association was officially incorporated in April 2021. She’s ably assisted by Peter Rutherford, a certified public accountant (CPA) who serves as treasurer and Chanel Minnis is the secretary. Their mission is to raise awareness, advocate on behalf of persons affected by CKD and help to improve their lives.
This month, BKA delivered their blanket and socks care packages to the patients at the Dialysis Unit at the Princess Margaret Hospital, RenalMed Associates Medical Center, The Kidney Clinic at Oak Tree Medical, The Dialysis Centre Bahamas on Collins Avenue and the Kidney Centre at Renal House. The items were funded by an anonymous donor in conjunction with donations from Martha’s Small Group at Bahamas Harvest Church and BKA’s own fundraising efforts.
“Those blankets were really well-received. Patients were happy. They are bringing them proudly with them for their treatment and it was really uplifting for them to know they are not in this alone. It was very well thought out and well-timed. It wasn’t just appreciated by the patients but also by the staff,” said PMH’s Nurse Darnell Roker.
“I think kidney patients are often overlooked because it’s chronic and ongoing. Nationally, we need to be more mindful of this patient population and do a little bit more. It shouldn’t be dialysis for the remainder of your life until you die, but that’s how it is for many of them.” Marvin Deveaux looks forward to the day when his name might be placed on a kidney transplant list.
Until then, the 56-year-old will do what he’s done for the past 17 years. For three hours a day, three times a week, be hooked to a machine for the removal of waste and extra fluid from his blood that his kidneys can no longer remove themselves.
“In these trying times things are tough and a lot of kidney patients are not employed. That being said, I’m appreciative of the blanket and the socks. I’m grateful.”
CKD patients often suffer from multiple health conditions and Keishler Johnson is no exception. Diagnosed as juvenile diabetic, the 42-year-old began losing her sight at the age of 17. Now blind, she also suffers from high blood pressure.
“Dialysis is a struggle. I do it three days a week, three hours at time. It’s my lifeline so I have to get up and get out to dialysis.”
Accompanying Johnson is her mom, 65-year-old Daveann. She too is a dialysis patient. The younger Johnson has been on dialysis for the past 12 years; her mom for seven.
“We have our rough days but for the most part we are happy, cheerful, laughing and going. We come together. We leave together. Thank God for that. We come in there strong. We come out there strong,” she said.
“The blanket was very much appreciated. It was a nice gesture to the persons in dialysis because it’s something to keep you a little warmer.”
Ms Roberts, who celebrates her fourth anniversary on June 27, as a living donor, realizes it’s an uphill battle, raising awareness for an often-overlooked patient population.
The Association commenced its work in earnest back in March with its first essay and video competition for senior high school students. Approximately 21 students from throughout the Bahamas participated.
By the end of this summer BKA hopes to roll out phase one of its medication assistance program providing kidney patients with Nephro-Vite to prevent vitamin deficiency. In the short term, they are working to secure funds for Alfacalcidol and Mircera to bolster bone health and to treat anemia.
A common problem in people with CKD is mineral bone disease. It affects almost all patients on dialysis, leading to weakness in bones and blood vessel disease. Said Ms Roberts: “I am in the CKD community. I have some understanding of what a dialysis patient goes through and The Bahamas Kidney Association is here to help.”
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