The Star (Nairobi)

18 January 2013

Kenya: Inside the Kidney Transplant Theatre At KNH

Photo: Capital FM
Change in lifestyle has been named as one of the causes of kidney problems in Kenya (file photo).

TODAY marks the end of a five-day kidney transplant week that has been going on at the Kenyatta National Hospital.

The operation that lasts for over five hours will end the suffering of patients whose kidneys failed and were lucky to have their close family members donate the all-important organ to give them a new lease of life.

On Tuesday morning, the process started off at nine by Leonard Kiplagat, a brother and donor to Hillary Kipkorir, being led into the theatre for the operation.

He went through the preparation stage that included counselling, inducement of the sleeping pill, setting off and laying the ground for the actual cut. In a span of minutes, Kiplagat lay unconscious on his bed, as the chief urologist Maina Kanyi and his team of experts prepared their equipment for the major surgery that started at 10am.

Step by step, the obviously relaxed team carefully cut through the donor's left side of the stomach in an operation that lasted over two hours, with each player undertaking their roles religiously.

Kanyi says he has been carrying out the operation at KNH for over three years, with 100 per cent success rate, and exudes confidence that the same will be replicated during this procedure. The surgeon's knife slowly reaps through the donor's skin to create an opening for the removal of the kidney. The vessel is slowly and carefully removed as reconstruction of the skin simultaneously goes on.

Midway through the operation, at 11:30am, the recipient whose both kidneys have failed is wheeled in the adjacent hall, where another team is dispatched to prepare ground for the attachment of the new organ. The hall is separated by a wall, and the two sides are able to communicate with one another. Meanwhile, the removal of the kidney is still going on.

The recipient operation, whose stomach is cut on the right side, lasts for an hour, setting the stage for the actual transfer of the kidney.

In the middle of the operating room, another group of five experts are busy preparing ice cube-lets for an important stage called perfusion of the kidney; a stage that ensures that once the organ has been removed from the donor, it is placed in a cool environment that enhances its survival.

By midday, the kidney having successfully been removed, the chief surgeon literally runs to the cooling bay, where the kidney is put in a bowl with ice, it is then connected to various pipes that slowly cleans the blood, while maintaining the recommended room temperature. This stage takes the shortest time - less than 30 minutes.

Two and a half hours later, the team embarks on the final stage, which involves the actual transplant. The kidney is fitted to the recipient by the waiting team, which goes through the careful process of attaching the organ to the right side of the lucky patient. Kanyi says the choice of whether right or left is purely based on preference.

The attaching lasts for an hour, and then the patient is assisted by the team to regain consciousness, but maintains strong sleeping pills. Four hours into the operating room, the patient is then wheeled out to the recovery room.

The experts say the patient takes three hours before fully regaining consciousness, and is then able to start feeding, bringing to an end the vigorous procedure that starts in the morning and ends late afternoon.

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Change in lifestyle has been named as one of the causes of kidney problems in Kenya (file photo).

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