Nairobi — The country's first paediatric kidney transplants have been successfully carried out giving two girls and two boys aged between 13 and 17 a new lease of life and perhaps increasing hope for other Kenyan patients with renal failure.
The four transplants were performed on Thursday at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) bringing to total the number of transplants done in the country to 99 after the first transplant in 1978.
KNH chief transplant surgeon Peter Mungai noted that children with kidney diseases were particularly disadvantaged because it was not advisable to place them on dialysis.
This is because of their tiny blood vessels in addition to the fact that they are unable to meet the 20-kilo weight threshold required.
"Help us transplant all those who are transplantable so that we can remove them from the list of those who need to go through dialysis and make the dialysis machines available for those who are waiting for a transplant," he said on Friday.
Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia, who was also present, promised to look into the issues affecting kidney patients saying that the National Hospital Insurance Fund was going to be overhauled as the government works towards making health services available to all.
He added that the supply chain at the Kenya Medical Supplies Agency would also be investigated so that the government can know why loads of drugs remained in stores instead of being taken to hospitals.
"There is no need of having drugs sitting in a big warehouse in Nairobi and not have them reach the most needy across the country," he said.
Patients with kidney illnesses incur huge medical costs as they work towards managing the diseases.
Mary Nginyo, who is a recipient of a kidney, explained how she had to use drugs that cost her about Sh25,000 per month to ensure that her body does not reject the new organ.
"I have to take about three major drugs everyday for the rest of my life because if I don't take these drugs I face the risk of my body rejecting the transplant. So I just want to ask you (Macharia) to subsidise the cost of these drugs," she pleaded.
KNH Acting CEO Simeon Monda also said that the hospital was working towards becoming an international hub for kidney transplants within the next five years.
Many Kenyans who require kidney transplants opt to go to India for these services but Monda explained that it would be cheaper if they accessed their treatment in Kenya.
A kidney transplant at KNH costs about Sh500,000 while a single dialysis session costs Sh2,000.
"Contrary to what many people are peddling around that kidney transplant is cheaper in India than it is here, let me assure you that it is much cheaper here. We therefore need to be assisted as a hospital so that we are able to offer these services at this cheap cost," he said.
The referral hospital also has a waiting period of three months for a new kidney and there are already 11 patients on that list.
Mungai observed how desperate patients could be as a result and even went as far as offering bribes to have their names pushed higher on the waiting list.
"We will not skip anybody because you are my friend or relative but we must make sure that people don't get to this level of desperation," he said.
He also lauded kidney donors for offering the vital organs adding that the hospital always conducted a thorough research to ensure no money was paid in exchange.
Desperate and well to do individuals even offer more than Sh10 million to get a healthy kidney.
The Kenya Commercial Bank had offered Sh5 million to enable 10 children get new kidneys.
With the four transplants already conducted, six children remain.
The hospital is planning to conduct these transplants within the next year.