Worldwide, the incidence of End Stage Renal Disease, ESRD, is increasing by 6 to 7 percent every year and about 16 million (10 percent) of 160 million Nigerians are suffering from kidney disease.
Apart from high cost of treatment and kidney transplants, patients are faced with challenges sustaining their treatment for life as they are expected to be on drugs and ensure regular checks from time to time.
In this chat with CHIOMA OBINNA, kidney transplant survivor, Bartholomew Osuji, a retired Deputy Superintendent of Police, DSP, relates his experience as a Policeman and his life after transplant. He expresses worry over the lack of any form of support or insurance for Policemen who come down with ESRD: Excerpts:
â€˜IT all began one evening in 2008 when I was a Police Officer on incident duty in Anthony area of Lagos. We encountered armed robbers.
I was alone in the car, my boys were not with me although nearby around 11pm. I never knew the occupants of the vehicle were armed robbers until they got close and opened fire at the Police van. Luckily I did not sustain any bullet wound.
I shouted to my men to return fire and we were able to gun down one of them. After that incident, I was no longer myself. I went to the hospital and was told it was shock from the armed robbery incident.â€
Bartholomew was taken to various hospitals without tangible investigations until 2009, when he ended up at Reddington Hospital in Victoria Island, where he was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Failure, CKF, and was eventually rushed to India.
Role of the Nigeria Police
At this point life became tough. Bartholomewâ€™s family expected the Nigeria Police to come in as their bread winnerâ€™s problem began while he was on duty. Unfortunately, his employers failed him and even indicted him.
â€œThe Police did not take any part in my treatment. They claimed that I did not get any paper from the Federal Minister of Health and Police Affairs before I was flown to India. I told them I was flown to India unconscious. My son went to Abuja twice while I was in India, but nothing came out of it to date. When I returned, I went to the Police and I was told the same thing.
Policemen dying: â€œMany Police men are dying of kidney disorders today because of lack of money. The Nigeria Police will not do anything. At Falomo Barracks where I lived, three Policemen have died since I returned from India.
The transplant was financed by the Church of Assumption, Falomo. Reverend Father Innocent who was in charge at that time was of good help to my family. It was he who contacted some parishioners who rose to the occasion. . And that was how I got to India for treatment.
Life after kidney transplant
After the transplant, things have changed. I cannot do as much as before. I was warned not to strain myself. I have been on drugs since the surgery. In a day, I take drugs five times. To date, I donâ€™t know who paid the initial US$15,000 the Indian hospital demanded before I was given my visa. My last check up in India was also a miracle. Before I got to the hospital, someone had paid US$1,000 into my account. Now, I drink water faithfully, I donâ€™t eat anyhow again. As I go out, I prepare my food. I abide by the doctorâ€™s instruction that I will never miss my drugs. That is how I have been managing my life.â€
Coping with cost of drugs
Every September /October, I go for check up in India and each time I require about US$10,000 because I must buy the drugs I will use for one year. But I go for regular check up at St. Nicholas Hospital, Lagos. I was to go every two weeks, sometimes I do that monthly because of the funds involved.
The drugs are not cheap. I have been able to cope with the assistance of my Church and my family.
Call to Government
While I was in India, I learnt that the Lagos State government is working towards building a cardiac centre, Government should do that as quickly as possible. In the hospital in India, many of the doctors are Nigerians. A boy of eight years who did the surgery with me on the same day died last year. There is need for government to invest in this line because many of our people are dying.
I thank God I am alive today because of people who contributed to my transplant surgery. I donâ€™t even know them all, particularly the person who paid for the last US$10,000 for my check up. I advise people to believe God in all things. All the period I was sick, I told my wife that nothing happens without God knowing it. If you believe God, he will deliver you.
I would also remain grateful to my wife. She went through a lot throughout the period. The eight months were not easy for her.â€