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No pediatric dialysis unit in Ghana; affected Children fated to die

It’s a sad tale in Ghana’s Pediatric Renal units where doctors have no option than to counsel parents of children with end-stage kidney failure, to prepare for death.

There is no dialysis unit for children with chronic kidney conditions in the whole of the country and parents cannot afford 40 thousand dollars to travel outside Ghana, for kidney transplants.

“Unfortunately when our children get to this end stage, the whole of Ghana has no Pediatric Dialysis machine for children. What we do is to counsel them for death. It is only the older kids above ten years that we try to put them on the adult machine but once it is not meant for a child, you know that it is not ideal,” Pediatric Renal Specialist at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Dr Anima Sarfo lamented.

Ultimate News’ Salimatu Hawini gathered that out of every hundred and fifty (150) children seen at the Renal Unit of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital every year, twenty-five (25) of them slip into end-stage kidney failure.

Corroborating the figures, Dr Anima told Morning Starr, the hospital loses 35 children to kidney conditions every year as parents are unable to keep up with treatment and recommendations for transplants conducted abroad.

Professor Theophilus Aquinas Osei-Anto a father of a fifteen-year-old kidney patient recounted ten years ago when he received a distress call in Cape Coast where he was away addressing a seminar. A call that was to flip his life upside down.

His strong and healthy daughter whom he left behind had bloated in size overnight and was stretchered to begin taking twelve doses of Prednisolone each day for 28 days at the initial stage of treatment.

“In fact there was a time when she went through one phase and when I counted, she had taken in one thousand and eight tablets and that was not all because when it appears it is gone, the next day she has bloated again. If I tell you the ups and downs and the amount I have spent even as a lecturer with good salary, it has drained me so much,” he narrated almost driven to tears.

Even though Abigail who is now 15 looks healthy after depending on drugs for the past ten years of her life, her father’s fears of Abigail relapsing into a chronic stage, is telling as he keeps checking up on her every night just to prevent the unexpected from happening.

“My body has developed a time clock and at every 12 o’clock in the night I get up to go check on her. If she gets into a chronic stage, I am telling you, I cannot bear it,” Prof Antoh told Salimatu Hawini.

Kidneys, shaped like beans beneath the ribcage converts waste and toxic mass into urine; balances blood pressure and produces erythropoietin which helps in the formation of red blood cells.

Any damage to the organ or the tubes that transfer urine to the urethra can be injurious and dire. Though many think kidney injuries only occur in adults, this injury can happen to an unborn fetus.

The Nephrology department of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital; sees on average 25 children and their families every Tuesday which is the open clinic day for Pediatric cases.

At the hospital, A single mother, a seamstress Adwoa Fosua told Salimatu for the past two and half years, her ten-year-old son, David began showing abnormal symptoms that prompted a test.

Her church has been her only backbone as she struggles to singlehandedly pay David’s medical bills and cater for his nutritional needs.

David a primary four student who explained what happened at his review had no appreciation of his condition beyond attending regular checkups and his body hurting when he experiences swelling.

Four-year-old Ezekiel who was strapped to his mother’s side, had lived with a kidney condition since he turned 2 months according to his mother Lydia Boadi.

“When he was two months old, I realized he was uncomfortable but the doctors said it was normal. After some time, he developed a swollen stomach and passed out at a point. After some scans were conducted, they realized one of his kidneys did not develop properly so we have been on treatment ever since,” she shared.

Lydia who did not know children could have kidney injury only found out she was not in this alone, upon seeing lots of children at the pediatric nephrology department. She narrated how she used to cry almost every day seeing her restless baby receiving drips and medications to keep him alive.

According to Dr. Anima Sarfo, no child under their care has been able to go through kidney transplant due to the cost associated with the whole treatment process.

She has two wishes; that government takes up the cost of medications for children with kidney conditions and for one pediatric Dialysis Centre to be established in the country for children who get to the end stage.

“Our appeal is that dialysis should be on the National Health Insurance and at least moves should be made to have a pediatric dialysis unit for our children,” she pleaded.

Unfortunately, more children are slipping into chronic kidney conditions for no fault of theirs. Without these swift interventions, they are doomed to death.

They can only look to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 which enjoins Ghana to ensure healthcare for all or plead to the conscience of the country’s leaders to come to their rescue.


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