From Steve Oko, Umuahia
There is now hope for patients with kidney- related ailments particularly those from South -East and South -South zones of the country. This is because the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Umuahia, Abia State, has commenced kidney transplant.
Findings revealed that the hospital has, since December 2017, successfully carried out four kidney transplants. The cost of the surgeries, drugs and treatments were entirely borne by the hospital and its foreign partners.
Kidney transplantation outside Nigeria is estimated to cost a whooping N10 million while doing same in the country is said to cost less than half of the stated amount. Investigations also revealed that patients with kidney related diseases top the list of Nigerians on medical trips abroad, especially to India.
Symptoms of Kidney disease, according to experts, include high blood pressure, changes in the quantity and frequency of passing urine, change in the colour of urine, pain in the kidney areas, tiredness, loss of appetite, sleeping difficulties and headache.
Others are loss of concentration, itching, shortness of breath, bad breath and metallic taste in the mouth, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting, pins and needle like pains in the fingers and toes.
Medical exploits at the FMC Umuahia particularly in kidney care under the leadership of the incumbent Medical Director, Dr. Abali Chuku are unprecedented.
According to findings, under the leadership of Dr. Chuku, the hospital has become the pioneer medical institution in the South- East /South- South zones to carry out successful kidney transplant. Patients from the two zones and beyond having kidney disorder can conveniently access medical care from the centre at drastically reduced cost.
The management of the hospital under Dr. Chuku had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Toledo on kidney transplants.
According to the MD, 40 kidney transplants are expected to be conducted at FMC Umuahia in 2018 alone. As part of preparation to begin the implementation of the MoU, in April, 2017, Dr. Chuku sponsored a team of medical doctors from the hospital to Ohio University Medical Centre to observe and add more knowledge on kidney transplant.
The first transplant was conducted on December 7 and 8 2017, while the second exercise was done on January 24, and 25 by a 15 member medical team of FMC Umuahia. By these feats, according to many observers, FMC Umuahia is gradually consolidating its reputation as a centre of excellence in kidney transplantation.
The surgeries were successfully carried with the procedure lasting more than 10 hours between procurement of the kidney from the donor and transplant to the receiver.
The surgical procedure was carried out by a team of surgeons led by Dr. Obi Ekwenna, a Nigerian-American from University of Toledo Medical Centre, Ohio, United States of America. Other members of the medical team from FMC Umuahia included Dr. George Okwudili Acho, Dr. Mgbeojedo Chizoba, Dr. Chimezie Okwuonu, Dr. Ezieule Victor, Dr. Ngwu Paul, and Dr. Ngwu Daberechi.
This success story is a positive outcome of the induction of Dr. Chuku into the Medical Mission Hall of Fame, University of Toledo Medical Centre, renowned globally for its expertise in kidney transplant. He was also designated a Distinguished Global Faculty Member of the University of Toledo.
Speaking with The AUTHORITY, the MD said that the gesture was aimed at helping kidney patients, especially the indigent ones who cannot afford to seek medical treatment abroad. He noted that kidney related ailments accounts for about seven per cent of admitted patients in the hospital. He said he was determined to end the nightmare of patients with kidney diseases by making the hospital a solution centre for the deadly disease.
According to Dr. Chuku, the exercise was a skill transfer session which FMC Umuahia hoped to run for four years to enable the Centre to fully optimize the transfer skills from the partnership with the University of Toledo Medical Centre.
The MD applauded the kidney donors for their courage to make the sacrifice. He hinted that his vision is to make kidney transplant in the hospital the cheapest in the country.
He, however, revealed that the hospital’s Kidney Foundation hopes to subsidize each transplant to less than N3.5 million, which, he noted, will make it far cheaper than other Centres in the country.
He appealed to well meaning Nigerians and philanthropists to key into the project, stressing that kidney transplant is cheaper than renal dialysis in the long run.
The lead surgeon from the University of Toledo Medical Centre, Dr. Ekwenna attested to the success of the entire procedure which he attributed to team work, emphasising that collective effort of the surgical team was a necessary condition for success in such a procedure.
He commended the surgical skill of the Nigeria surgeons who, he said, needed little guidance to be able to undertake a successful kidney transplant.
Dr. Ekwenna said that both the donors and the recipients were doing beautifully well, assuring that the donors whom he referred to as heroes, would live normal lives.
One of the two patients who had kidney transplant last year, 37 year old Mr. Orji Ogbonanya Ule, said the kidney problem began four years ago.
He disclosed that his new kidney was donated by his 58 years old uncle who is a civil servant. The other patient was a 68 years old Medical Doctor whose own kidney problem was diagnosed four months before the surgery. His own new kidney was donated by his relation. Both patients, in an interview with our correspondent, expressed gratitude to Dr. Chuku and the team of doctors who attended to them for giving them “another chance to live a new life”. They said their recovery rate was very rapid beyond their expectation.
Excited by the medical exploit in the hospital, the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, recently visited the hospital to encourage the management and team of experts. He also visited the patients as well as the donors and expressed delight at their rapid recovery.
The Minister described the FMC Umuahia under Dr Abali Chuku as one of the up-coming Federal Medical Institutions whose breakthrough elates the federal government. “I am more than impressed with its breakthrough in kidney transplantation”, Professor Adewole said, describing the MD, Dr. Chuku as “a magician and a go getter”.
These medical exploits would be better appreciated considering that FMC Umuahia is not a Teaching Hospital where breakthroughs in various aspects of medical practice are usually expected.
Secondly, FMC Umuahia has become the first medical institution in the South East zone to undertake kidney transplant and the only one currently undertaking the procedure in the region.
The medical feat at FMC Umuahia, many residents of the area said, has propelled other Federal Medical Centres to break the glass ceiling and reach for the sky with respect to medical research and practice in various aspects of medicine. FMC Umuahia has demonstrated that medical feats are no longer the exclusive prerogatives of Teaching Hospitals.