Thirty-five year old Franklin Bruintjies has dialysis twice a week after doctors discovered last year that he was born with under-developed kidneys.
Mr Bruintjies fell ill in June last year.
“My kidneys were giving me problems. I developed a massive migraine and had to be rushed to hospital. When I got to the hospital in Worcester, my condition worsened. I couldn’t talk, walk and my energy levels became very low. I was then rushed to Tygerberg Hospital for further treatment,” he said.
World Kidney Day on Thursday March 14 highlighted the high and growing increasing burden of kidney diseases worldwide.
Tygerberg Hospital spokeswoman, Laticia Pienaar, said Mr Bruintjies had an “unknown cause of end-stage kidney disease”.
Ms Pienaar said the hospital’s renal unit had seen recent improvements.
“Community members have managed to raise R140 000, which has been used to support two additional patients with bridging dialysis in the private sector. These generous ‘Friends of the Renal Unit’ have also sponsored the repair of flooring, tiles and window blinds within the dialysis unit and renal ward,” she said.
Mr Bruintjies was admitted to Tygerberg’s ICU.
Doctors told him his kidneys had not developed properly and he would need surgery.
But he pulled through and was taken to the hospital’s high-care ward.
“At that time, I was very ill and the hospital called my family and children to say their goodbyes to me. I was very bloated and doctors initially drained ten litres of fluid from my body and following that they drained a further five litres,”he said.
After spending more than a month at Tygerberg Hospital, he was discharged and returned to Ceres.
“A short while after I got home, I began dialysis at Tygerberg Hospital twice a week, on a Monday and Friday. I have to undergo dialysis for four hours at a time. I was very sick. I am feeling better and stronger now.“
Mr Bruintjies said he got excellent treatment at Tygerberg but it became too costly for him to keep travelling all the way there twice a week.
“It cost me R400 a day to travel back and forth, which means I was forking out R800 a week. I now, undergo, dialysis at Worcester Hospital, and it costs me 50% less to travel from my home to the hospital,” he said.
Mr Bruintjies has had to make said he had had to make significant lifestyle changes since his diagnosis.
“I don’t drink or smoke anymore, and I have opted for a healthier diet. I am the only person in my family with this type of disease. I don’t have a family history of kidney disease,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Medical Association has so far this year helped 14 people, who were unable to get dialysis in state hospitals, get treatment in private hospitals.
The two additional bridging dialysis slots help patients who would otherwise have been unable to access treatment.
These slots have helped to maintain patients for up to one year until their medical aids are able to support them, Ms Pienaar said.
Dr Yazied Chothia, a nephrologist at Tygerberg Hospital, said patients had lengthy treatments three times a week.
“The dialysis unit is like a second home for many, and small improvements in the environment greatly lift the spirits of both the patients and staff, making the unit a place that they can be proud of.”
He said the leading causes of death in South Africa were cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, heart failure and strokes.
“These conditions are mainly caused by diabetes and hypertension. These lifestyle diseases are also the leading causes of chronic kidney disease.
A rising number of diabetics and hypertensive patients were presenting with chronic kidney disease.
A rising numbers of diabetics and hypertensive patients were presenting with chronic kidney disease,” he said.
Without appropriate treatment chronic kidney disease progresses to end-stage kidney disease and eventually death.
“The only treatment option available is renal replacement therapy (RRT) such as dialysis and kidney transplantation which could be very costly and unaffordable to those without medical aid.
The limited resources in the public healthcare sector mean that only a fortunate few patients who qualify for the dialysis are offered these life-saving treatments,” he said.
Ms Pienaar said that In South Africa, there had been a steady growth in RRT treatment.
“However, most of the growth has occurred within the private sector, while in the public sector it has remained stagnant for more than 20 years.
With most of the South African population dependent on the public sector for health care, many patients with end-stage kidney disease have to be turned away as a result of limited resources.
As few as one out of four patients assessed for dialysis in the public sector of the Western Cape is offered RRT,” she said.
Mr Bruintjies said he was waiting on his medical aid to come through.
“Hopefully everything will be sorted by June this year and then we can search for a donor on the kidney disease registry,” he said.
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