Dar es Salaam. Last year, Mr Jumanne Dologwe, endured six months of excruciating pain and emotional setbacks after doctors discovered his kidneys had failed and he had to visit a hospital three times every week to have his blood cleansed by “artificial kidneys” or dialysis.
Mr Dologwe was told, he would have to spend the rest of his life on the artificial kidneys - parting with Sh1 million weekly for the treatment unless someone - a good Samaritan - showed up to donate a fresh kidney to replace one of his failed ones in a surgical operation — a procedure known as kidney transplantation.
But this year, the 55 year-old father of two considers himself a happy man. One of his relatives volunteered to donate a kidney for him and, through government sponsorship, he had one of his kidneys replaced at Apollo Hospital in India.
Today, Mr Dologwe bares the testimony to a success story — a tale that millions of Tanzanians, who are still suffering from chronic kidney disease (CKD) like he was, still consider a distant dream.
According to him, the road to recovery was easier compared to the number of his colleagues who are still grappling with the disease — with even little hope of getting a donor, and to others, as he put it, “are still struggling to access medical services that will keep them alive until they get donors.”
“It took me just a week to discover I had such a disease…I think it’s because I stay in the city where specialists and modern facilities are easily available,” he said in an interview when The Citizen on Sunday caught up with him at his Bahari Beach home in Kinondoni Municipality, Dar es Salaam city recently.
During the interview, Mr Dologwe, a government employee, was very optimistic about his future and his career. But at some point, he was visibly haunted by a sense of humanity, especially when he recalled those who are still desperately trying to look for the cure of CKD, but in vain.
“I know of people in my home village in Kigoma who had symptoms like mine, but they later died helplessly, with people in my neighbourhood linking their suffering and death to superstition,” he recalled.
Having gone through the painful ordeal, Mr Dologwe has a lot to tell of his experience in trying to seek for the cure to CKD. He believes, there are many people out there who experience more suffering than he did. But also, he has realised that people suffering from CKD are very many in the country.
According to statistics provided by the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) when Tanzania was marking this year’s World Kidney Day in Arusha, 5.85 million Tanzanians are estimated to have kidney diseases, and that out of these patients, about 65.3 per cent were known to have CKD in the late stages of three or four.
Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda revealed in Arusha during the event that Tanzania would start performing kidney transplantation by the year 2020, highlighting that problems related to kidney failure are on the increase in the country, warning that three out of every 1,000 patients admitted to local hospitals suffer from the problem.
The PM further revealed that presently, only 100 patients with CKD in Tanzania can afford treatment with dialysis, but there are nearly half a million sick people in the country who require the dialysis service, but cannot access it.
He told thousands of Arusha residents who turned up to check their kidneys’ health status that, the state would inject more money to that end because kidney problems have been found to be slowly, but surely becoming another major life threat in the country, causing deaths to over 20 per cent of hospitalised patients
Mr Dologwe sees a bright future ahead of him now — a sense of hope he could have lost, if his relatives did not understand his ordeal. But he also says it could have been a bigger challenge for him if he did not take heed of the ongoing call for people to join the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).
“For the entire six months I was undergoing dialysis, more than Sh25 million was spent on my treatment. I wonder what the amount would sound like to a person who has no health insurance,” Mr Dologwe told this reporter in response to a question about how and where he got the support.
“When my relatives heard of my predicament, they responded quickly to my call for help. There were eight people already on a queue, each wanting to donate a kidney for me,” he narrated, while recalling incidents where he has seen people running away from their relatives who happen to be diagnosed with CKD and require kidney transplantation.
“If I was not a member of NHIF, I would have had to dig deep into my own pockets to pay for the treatment…but there are those who have completely ignored this service….You see, you cannot know the value of health insurance until you get into trouble like me,” he further cautioned.
Mr Dologwe has tasted the agony of being diagnosed with an illness in the terminal stages — a stark reality that goes with the challenges brought about by the increasing trend of non-communicable ailments, including CKD and the related diseases like diabetes and blood pressure.
However, those who bear the brunt of the scourge are the underprivileged majority who cannot afford treatment and medical tests for these diseases, a situation that is further complicated by a weak healthcare system.
The presence of CKD, which is associated with a large increase in risk for high blood pressure, has been increasing worldwide. Available information indicates that nearly one billion people worldwide have high blood pressure, and that the number is expected to increase to 1.56 billion by 2025.