‘Defaulting on medication damaged my kidneys’

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Alvine Kapitako

Windhoek-It was only when 53-year-old Fredrich Batuang was diagnosed with kidney failure that he realised that skipping medicine prescribed by doctors was not a good idea.

Batuang told New Era on Friday that he suffered from high blood pressure but did not take his medication as prescribed by doctors.

“I was having high blood pressure. It (kidney failure) was diagnosed through high blood pressure. To be honest with you I didn’t adhere to the medication prescribed to me by doctors.”

Batuang added:  “I was skipping my medicine. If I could adhere to what the doctors told me I couldn’t sit with this problem today (sic).”

About five years ago Batuang experienced heavy nose bleeding but did not fear for the worst. However, when he saw that his nose would not stop bleeding, he sought medical attention.

“It was on a Saturday (nearly five years ago). I went to Khomasdal clinic and I was immediately referred to Katutura hospital. I was kept there for two days and was diagnosed with kidney failure,” Batuang said.

Batuang reminisced: “I didn’t know what the diagnosis meant so I can’t really say that I felt bad.”

But within a short time all hell broke loose.
“I was sick, I couldn’t eat, I was coughing heavily, I couldn’t urinate, and I lost weight drastically. They kept me there (hospital) for a month,” he said.

Batuang was then put on dialysis, which is the artificial process of eliminating waste and unwanted water from the blood.

Although kidneys do this naturally, damaged kidneys cannot carry out this function properly. Therefore patients with kidney failure need dialysis.

Not long after going for dialysis, Batuang developed superior vena cava syndrome, caused by obstruction of the superior vena cava which is a short, wide vessel carrying circulating blood into the heart.

One of the common symptoms of this condition is shortness of breath and swelling. As a result, it was not surprising that Batuang’s right arm and neck swelled severely, likely from the protracted placement of the dialysis catheter.

“I found myself in a very bad situation where my breathing and swelling were so bad that my life got even more uncomfortable. My family was deeply affected as well,” Batuang narrated.

He stayed with the condition untreated for nearly three years and only got relief last year in July.

He explained that Dr Ishmael Katjitae referred him to his colleague Dr Perry Eagles who wrote a motivational letter to the Ministry of Health and Social Services to avail funds through its special fund. This would enable him to go for surgery in Cape Town.

“The Ministry of Health and Social Services made the funds available. I was then admitted at Cape Gate Medi Clinic on 10th of July 2016 until 22 July 2016. The surgery was done successfully. My gratitude goes to all the nursing staff at the Cape Gate Medi Clinic who assisted me during the operation,” a grateful Batuang said.

He also applauded the government through the Ministry of Health and Social Services for saving his life by availing funds for the life-saving operation. “I thank them for all their efforts, hard work and dedication for all the arrangements they made for my flight and accommodation,” Batuang added.

Depending on dialysis machine
The fact Batuang’s kidneys are ineffective means he depends on dialysis machines to clean his system. This will be the situation until he gets a willing and compatible kidney donor.

“When I started dialysis for the first time it was three days a week and for three hours a day,” he says. That has since increased to four hours three days a week. “I also have to say that since I was put on medication after my diagnosis I adhere to my medication. I have to take 12 tablets in a day but it’s okay because my health has really improved.

Previously my health was very poor but since I started with dialysis I started to improve. There were days in the past when I was not going to the toilet to urinate at all,” Batuang said.

He said some of his fellow patients at the dialysis centre have not urinated since their kidney failure diagnosis.

He also said that some of the state patients on dialysis come from different parts of Namibia.

“Some patients are really suffering because they have to be in Windhoek three times a day and they do not have family in Windhoek,” said Batuang.

“Some state patients end up giving up on dialysis because of transport and logistical challenges.”

“We are 40 to 50 patients now. Some are on day shift, others are on noon shift and night shift. I was really helped by the fact that my wife has a house in Windhoek. It would have been difficult coming from Gobabis just for dialysis. But there are patients who are not as lucky as me. The state is really helping us by putting us on dialysis but what about those who can’t afford the life of dialysis?”

He added: “Sometimes it’s not realistic to want so much from the government but we are poor people.” Batuang wants government to start up dialysis centres across the country and closer to people so that more patients are assisted at no cost.

There is no state dialysis centre and as a result patients have to use the private dialysis centres in Windhoek, Ongwediva and Swakopmund. The Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Bernard Haufiku recently announced government’s plans to set up dialysis centres in different parts of the country.

Special Fund
Batuang believes more awareness should be created on the health ministry’s special fund.

“The special fund was established in 2009 with more than 800 patients treated under this fund,” Ester Paulus, the spokesperson of the health ministry said.

She said all patients referred to the special fund need urgent treatment and are treated as emergency cases, “taking into consideration the booking period given by the appropriate health facilities”.

She added: “This fund is established to assist Namibians that are unable to afford private health care. Under normal circumstances the special fund only caters for state patients without medical aid.”

• This is the second of three articles on kidney disease. The previous article was published last Monday while the last one will be published next week Monday.

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