MASERU – ’Mants’ali Maphasa is one of the many people who actually stared death in the eye and lived to tell the tale.
Although there is nothing particularly extraordinary about her and her life story is a common one, the thought of lying helplessly on a hospital bed and watching her own life ebb away by the minute was horrendous.
All she ever thought and silently prayed for was a miracle to cure her failing kidneys before they collapsed completely.
For a 25-year-old, frequent and acute high blood pressure attacks were anomalous. Doctors were unable to put her condition under control, despite the precautionary measures and treatment she underwent.
Her condition was so emotionally straining that it forced her to drop out of college six months before she graduated.
She was in 2016 diagonised with an acute renal disease, which is the first damage that leads to kidney failure. A kidney transplant operation she underwent also did not help because her condition only waned further.
When the doctors informed her that she only had a few weeks to live, she thought that was the end of her.
“My life was in shambles; I was not particularly feeling any physical pain, but the emotional drain was unbearable.
“Imagine your doctor telling you that your case is so hopeless that you will perish in a few weeks’ time unless you get a specialised kind of assistance that you have absolutely no idea where to get from.
“I would stay awake at night thinking that perhaps this is my last day and the next night it would be the same thing over and over again until I no longer cared whether or not I lived,” she reminisces.
Throughout her suffering and hopelessness, all she ever did was to pray for a miracle.
She met former minister of social development ’Matebatso Doti who told her about a deal the government of Lesotho has with Apollo hospitals in India, where patients with kidney failure get treatment.
She was thereafter transferred to Motebang Hospital before she was taken to India for a transplant.
Since her kidney was completely destroyed, she needed a new one, but Maphasa was lucky because her sister, who was a perfect match, immediately donated her kidney.
After the successful transplant, her life changed for the better and her hope was renewed and she even started taking life more seriously.
Most importantly, she learnt how to take good care of her health. She avoided foods that could contaminate her precious kidneys and appreciated the importance of drinking enough water per day.
She learnt how to take things easy to avoid stress and went for regular medical checks.
Maphasa is currently working on a project that raises awareness about kidney-related problems and diseases as well as supporting patients on acute kidney treatment.
Communicable and non-communicable diseases are threatening to overwhelm Lesotho’s health system and the country has been sending its kidney disease patients and cancer patients to Apollo hospital in India for treatment and transplant because of lack of skills and resources in the country.
Tokushukai Foundation in Japan donated 10 dialysis machines to the Government of Lesotho that will enable the country to treat kidney patients in the country and only send them to India for transplants.
Last week Friday, a national dialysis unit at the Motebang Hospital in Leribe was officially launched as the first and only dialysis unit in Lesotho.
Speaking at the launch, Prime Minister Motsoahae Thomas Thabane said that the dialysis centre will undoubtedly go a long way towards augmenting the efforts of the government by bringing transformative change in the healthcare of the people and building infrastructure with the latest technology.
According to him, the dialysis unit provides both acute and chronic renal dialysis and to date over 130 patients have been dialysed with the majority of such people having chronic kidney disease, which is a significant global health concern with a prevalence of around 15% in developed countries.
“With the available evidence of causes of chronic disease among our patients, it is urgent and critical that we strengthen our Primary Health Care services to ensure early detection and prevention of complications of diseases that cause chronic kidney disease.
“Among our key health priorities are Universal Health Coverage and control of non-communicable diseases,” Thabane said.
He said due to communicable and non-communicable diseases that are threatening to overwhelm the country, Lesotho has embarked on an advocacy and sensitisation campaign for the people to change their lifestyle and lead healthy lives.
Thabane added that the Government, through its Ministry of Health, is also establishing clinics and health posts, particularly in hard-to-reach areas to ensure equal access to essential health services by all citizens.
“The government has currently employed additional 250 nurses and 38 doctors to be deployed in various health facilities across the country,” Thabane said.
Director General Dr ’Nyane Letsie noted that after the dialysis unit arrangement to work at the Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital failed and doctors and nurses who were trained to use the machines and treat kidney aliments left to work elsewhere, the Republic of Zambia came to Lesotho’s rescue and trained its doctors and nurses to replace those who had left.
Dr Letsie said the presence of dialysis machines in Lesotho has stimulated more doctors to work in the country, adding that currently, a total of 70 young doctors in the country are undergoing internship, an initiative followed in Lesotho before.
Health minister Nkaku Kabi echoed Thabane’s sentiments about the challenge of curable and incurable diseases that are threatening to overwhelm the country.
Kabi said his ministry is working tirelessly to ensure that people lead healthy lives.
He said they have started strengthening primary health care in villages because it has come to their attention that if blood pressure is well controlled, the risk of kidney failure decreases.
Kabi said when sicknesses are treated and cured on time, kidney failure will be a thing of the past.
He showed that although the government has just received the dialysis machines, the ministry of health wishes to expand from Motebang Hospital to Maseru and to two other districts in the southern region of Lesotho.
Kabi said the kind-heartedness of the Tokushukai Foundation not only brought back smiles on the faces of patients who were critically and terribly ill but also revived hope to all Basotho that there is live after dialysis.
He said the government of Lesotho needs to train more doctors to specialise in kidney failure and acute renal diseases so that the country would no longer rely on sending its patients to India and other places.
A patient who received treatment for acute kidney disease at Motebang Hospital, ’Mathabiso Raselimo, says she is now fully cured.
Raselimo says after giving birth, she developed complications like severe bleeding and was not being able to go to the bathroom properly.
After undergoing a number of tests, Raselimo was diagnosed with acute kidney disease.
She was one of the first patients to be put on dialysis machine treatment by the Motebang Hospital.
Another patient also under kidney failure treatment at the same hospital, ’Mampho Lethobane, who is also on sugar diabetes treatment notes that when she fell ill, the unit was not yet operational, and she had to be transferred to Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital.
“From there I was transferred to Bloemfontein where I was only dialysed for a short time due to high costs. I thereafter underwent private dialysis in Maseru but was forced to abandon it because I could no longer afford it.”
Lethobane says while she was still stranded, she heard about the dialysis unit at Motebang Hospital and started undergoing treatment.
She says although the dialysis unit in Lesotho has helped a lot of patients and saved many lives, several of them still face challenges along the treatment journey which, among others, include shortage of resources and water that interferes with the due process of the treatment.
“There are few dialysis machines in the country and they get overwhelmed by patients.”
For instance, there are only 10 machines which have to cater for all kidney patients in Lesotho where each patient gets under a machine for at least four hours at a time.
Lethobane says the time patients spend without going under the machine set back their healing progress, adding that under such circumstances they get too weak to even nod their heads.
“I therefore appeal to the government to secure more dialysis machines in other districts to accommodate patients who cannot even afford to go to Motebang Hospital for treatment,” she says.
Feeble as she looks, she shows a lot of courage and hope during her stay in the dialysis units.
She confidently notes that since her admission and the period she received treatment, she has actually seen a number of fellow patients leave the hospital fully recovered.
“When I first arrived here, I had little hope of getting cured but now I see a lot of progress,” she says with a happy grin.
She encourages fellow patients with kidney problems to get treatment timeously to avoid complications associated with delayed treatment.
Kidneys are body organs that are vital for filtering waste products from the blood. They are also involved in regulating blood pressure, electrolyte balance, and red blood cell production in the body.
A MedicineNet report shows that symptoms of kidney failure are due to the build-up of waste products and excess fluid in the body that may cause weakness, shortness of breath, lethargy, swelling, and confusion.
The report also shows that inability to remove potassium from the bloodstream may lead to abnormal heart rhythms and sudden death, adding, however, that kidney failure may cause no symptoms.
According to the report, there are numerous causes of kidney failure, and treatment of the underlying disease may be the first step in correcting the kidney abnormality.
“Some causes of kidney failure are treatable, and the kidney function may return to normal. Unfortunately, kidney failure may be progressive in other situations and may be irreversible.
“The diagnosis of kidney failure usually is made by blood tests measuring BUN, creatinine, and glomerular filtration rate (GFR).
“Treatment of the underlying cause of kidney failure may return kidney function to normal. Lifelong efforts to control blood pressure and diabetes may be the best way to prevent chronic kidney disease and its progression to kidney failure. As we age, kidney function gradually decreases over time.
“If the kidneys fail completely, the only treatment options available may be dialysis or transplant,” it further reads.