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Families of Borno kidney patients battle death, despair

In Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, an increase in the number of patients with kidney diseases in homes and hospital wards are becoming unprecedented. So…

In Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, an increase in the number of patients with kidney diseases in homes and hospital wards are becoming unprecedented.

So far, millions of people, cutting across different ages and genders, have been lost to renal failure, and now threatening a new generation.

Daily Trust Saturday gathered that the potential causes of kidney diseases in Maiduguri are still unknown. Doctors and community health experts are battling to unravel the causes.

The Borno State governor, Babagana Umara Zulum, had in March, 2022 approved a N50million research grant for the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH) Kidney Centre.

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The Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Professor Ahmed Ahidjo, said the grant was aimed at assisting the facility to conduct research in kidney diseases to reduce the damage it causes in the society.

Our correspondents who went round some hospitals in Maiduguri noted that inadequate facilities, health personnel in the area and high cost of treatment contribute to the daily loss of lives from the disease.

Patients narate their pain

A 56-year-old mother, Hajja Amina, who was anxious for her son to recover from renal failure, died last week, a few months after she was also diagnosed with kidney disease.

Her daughter, Aisha, said her mother was so much disturbed by her son’s condition, who she spent years taking care of, then suddenly started experiencing kidney symptoms.

“Initially, she was placed on ulcer drugs for a long time, but when the condition kept degenerating, she returned to the hospital and was diagnosed with a chronic kidney disease.

“One day, she became pale and unconscious and we took her to the hospital. She was referred to the dialysis unit, but each time she underwent dialysis in the morning, she would be in pain throughout that day; in fact, she would not observe her prayers until around 9pm,” she said

Aisha said on the day her mother died, a flight was booked for the next day to Abuja so that she would continue with her dialysis there.

“She told us that the last time she did it, it wasn’t as painful as the one in the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital. But as God would have it, she died that night,” she narrated amidst tears.

However, the most pathetic was the story of a mother and her daughter who could not afford medication, so they were discharged from hospital and they died helplessly.

The only surviving son, Suleiman Adamu Muhammad said, “My mother was the first to die. They passed away within a month interval due to kidney failures and lack of finance to cover their treatment.

“We couldn’t pay for the dialysis. I watched my mother die in pain three days after we were discharged from the hospital; and four weeks later, my sister also died.

“It reached a level that I could not get any money, I couldn’t buy the medicine; all I could do, was to donate my blood. We were discharged on the day I donated my blood.

“I felt emotionally drained that I couldn’t rescue my family. After spending all I had, they died and I was left with nothing.

“I appeal to the government to support lots of patients in the hospitals who have no money to treat their sick relatives and themselves.

“The worst thing is that sometimes there will be no light in the hospital, and kidney patients need a cool temperature,” he said 

He said that for the duration he managed his mother and sister in the hospital, those who died outnumbered survivors. 

“On a daily basis, I received calls from relatives that the patients we left there were dying. How many patients in Maiduguri have the financial strength to spend about N35,000 per dialysis session, which sums up to N70,000 weekly, as it is carried out twice?

“Both the male and female wards are full with kidney patients. Even ward stores were converted into bed spaces for patients.

“We are pleading with government to assist people that have this ailment,” he said.

For a 60-year-old Nasiru Jibrin, a father who lost his 37-year-old son, Mohammed Nasir to kidney disease after spending his life saving to save his life said, “it is a painful experience.”

“His sickness began with severe pain in his leg. We all thought it was a fracture and took him to a traditional bone-setter but the herbalist said the leg bones were fine.

“We took him to UMTH, where tests and scans were conducted. He was diagnosed with uric acid, kidney infection and blood pressure.

“They prescribed some drugs worth N30,000, which we bought every month for one year, but his condition kept deteriorating; he couldn’t breathe well. They finally referred him for dialysis—twice a week – but we couldn’t afford it because my salary is N35,000.

Jibrin said his son was fortunate to have close friends that helped him.

“Fortunately, his friend read Medicine while my son read Accountancy. The friend took him to the State Specialist Hospital, where they dialysed him free of charge on Fridays and paid N30,000 for the next one at the UMTH. That’s how we continued until we could no longer afford it. We now started paying for his transportation to Damaturu to do it freely there until we lost him. He did this for one year and four months before he died.

“I and his brother who drives a Dangote truck and one of his married sisters spent so much money until we had nothing left.

“It reached a stage where, if we were asked to bring some blood or undergo a test, it became difficult to do. His friends had to assist us by donating the blood, and even at that, we spent N5,000 on each donation for treating the blood and to pay for the pint leather,” he said

Patients’ relatives call on govt for support

However, some of the helpless patients interviewed on hospital beds called on both state and the federal government to intervene and save them from the clutches of death.

Abba Kaka Babagana, who lived with the disease 8 months back and was placed on dialysis, said he was having very difficult experience.

“It is very difficult, especially for an orphan like me. My father died and it is my mother who struggle to pay for my dialysis twice a week – Monday and Thursday.

“She doesn’t have a steady income. Sometimes people assist us. Most times the doctors advise us to do transplant. And you know how much that costs for us that struggle with dialysis. We can’t afford that,” he said.

JCey Danial, another patient in the UMTH from Moduganari bypass, Maiduguri, said he was diagnosed with the disease in 2017.

“My kidney problem has exhausted everyone in our family. I am a businessman but it had eaten everything in the business. We urgently need assistance because after the end of this year. I think I can no longer be able to do it myself,” he said.

The coordinator of the Kidney Centre in the UMTH, Prof Ibrahim Ummate, said the prevalence of kidney diseases in Borno State was higher than other parts of Nigeria and the rest of the world.

Ummate, who is a professor of nephrology, said the prevalence was 18 per cent of the general population, that is, from early stage up to the chronic stage. 

“The prevalence, worldwide, is just 10 to 11 per cent; and the country reported 12 per cent, so the prevalence in Borno is far more than that of the entire country,” he said.

Asked if the UMTH was overwhelmed with cases of kidney diseases, he said, “It is true because we usually have 5 to 10 new cases every clinical day; and we do the clinic once in a week.

“Likewise, we usually admit between 5 and 7 patients on a daily basis. And they are those that have advanced stage of kidney disease.

Asked about the causes of renal failure, he said, “There are multiple problems like hypertension, diabetics, GN homological component, genetic disease, drugs abuse, grain stored with pesticide and other factors that are causing kidney diseases.’’

However, Ummate said Borno State had a peculiar problem of heat, which is greater than any part of the country. “Heat contributes a lot, apart from the traditional causes in other parts of the country. Our temperature here is 40 to 45 degrees in the summer period.

“People eat a lot of food without taking the amount of water commensurate with it. There’s a lot of perspiration. The heat alone can accelerate the damage caused by other diseases,” he added.

The professor noted that what multiplies the prevalent state was the nature of Borno environment and other social practices by the people in the society.

He said that if people wanted to reduce the prevalence of kidney diseases, there must be an advocacy campaign to enlighten patients and the community generally on how to take care of themselves.

He said, “They should know how to avoid excessive heat if they can’t afford air-conditioning or a fanning system. They should walk under shade or use an umbrella and take a lot of water.

“People should monitor their urine colour because even during summer period, your urine should be as colourless as water, not amber, yellow or reddish.” 

He said enough fluid in the body would reduce the pattern, while those that are hypertensive or diabetic should always go for checkups to manage their conditions.

“Also, those that take traditional medicine, and-on-the-counter drug buyers should avoid it because all drugs are poisonous when taken out of proportion or after the period prescribed exceeded,” he added.

The experts believe that unless state and federal governments take measures to uncover the cause of the disease, the helpless patients will continue to die because not many people can afford the cost of dialysis, and in the worst case, kidney transplant.

‘Probe release of N50m research grant’

The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Network of Civil Society in Borno State (NECSOB) have called for a probe on the N50million kidney research grant approved by the state government.

In a separate appeal, the state chairman of the NUJ, Comrade Dauda Iliya, expressed concern that the research report had not been released, and called for a prompt publication in the public interest.

Comrade Bulama Abiso of the NECSOB said the state government should launch an inquiry and find out the stage of the research conducted by the UMTH and make the report public.

It also solicited the intervention of humanitarian and developmental partners in research and donation of high technological equipment to address the issue.

“We are also calling for a direct assistance to all the victims as the cost of management and treatment is beyond ordinary citizens. 

“It is in this light that we also appreciate the direct intervention by TeTFund in providing dialysis machines and training grants to personnel at the UMTH Kidney Centre,” he said.

Hundreds of family members whose loved ones battle with the scourge are now hoping to miraculously set the clock back on their fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, but it may be difficult.


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