A team from the United Kingdom-based Transplants Links Community (TLC) arrived in Montego Bay at the weekend and working alongside Dr Curtis Yeates and colleagues at CRH reviewed the patients awaiting kidney transplants and family members on Monday in preparation for the surgical operation this week.
This is the third visit to CRH by TLC since 2013. The visiting team comprises two surgeons, two kidney specialists and two support persons from TLC, including Executive Director Jenny Jewitt-Harris.
Ms Jewitt-Harris described the prevalence of kidney failure in Jamaica as high. “Jamaica has a problem with kidney failure because of a lot of high blood pressure and diabetes which are common causes. People don’t look after their kidney,” she said.
Ms Jewitt-Harris is advising Jamaicans that, “you have to look after your blood pressure, get it checked and keep those calories down.”
She pointed out, ‘If you’ve got kidney failure life on dialysis is miserable, not much fun at all, so if you can have a kidney from a relative you’ve got the chance of a normal life again; it’s a much better quality of life and is cheaper as well than being on dialysis, so everyone benefits.”
She said TLC had a long term goal for Jamaica, which was, “a sustainable kidney transplant programme that serves all of the people in Jamaica with kidney failure, to give them a chance to life again.”
Ricardo White is one of the beneficiaries of a kidney transplant in 2013. “I’m feeling brilliant; I never feel so in my life yet. I’m living a normal life again, not feeling sick, no wheezing, life is at 100 percent,” he said on Monday.
Wayne Bernard is also living with a family member’s kidney transplanted in him at CRH in 2013. “It has been tremendous, awesome! It’s a beautiful experience; I can only challenge persons who are on the (dialysis) machine, whether in Kingston or Montego Bay, to really live a type of life in terms of watching their diet so they are able to be a part of the process of transformation,” he said.
Dr Malcolm Samuels, Consultant Surgeon from Trinidad working with the TLC team, agreed that “there’s clearly a great need for transplants in Jamaica, that’s why we’re back.”
While anticipating that “we’ll be back hopefully sooner than later,” Dr Samuels also underscored support for local doctors in the development of a kidney transplant programme at Cornwall Regional Hospital so that they can move it forward.
TLC has been supporting Trinidad for the past ten years and already that country has done 150 transplants. Dr Samuels said the programme there started similar to what is now being done at CRH “with a team from overseas visiting, supporting us and we are now self-sufficient.” However, assistance is received for complicated cases.
There is now an initiative to develop the programme across the Caribbean. Dr Cockwell said TLC has been to several countries in Africa, the Far East and has done a substantial amount of work in the Caribbean.
He expressed the view that given the way the programme has been progressing in Jamaica and with the expertise that’s available and what is being developed through training, Jamaica should soon be doing as well as Trinidad with kidney transplants in a short while.
He too pointed to the fact that “there is the need for a transplant programme in Jamaica because you’ve got so much kidney failures here and because transplantation for many patients is the best and cheapest long term treatment, which makes real economic sense.”