EXCLUSIVE: SPECTACULAR SUCCESS STORY OF RENAL TRANSPLANT TEAM/UNIT FMC UMUAHIA

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Success is universal phenomenon. What is success and by what objective criteria or yardstick is success measured? Success means different things to different individuals and corporate organizations. Different societies assess or measure success using different standards. Success can be perceived in terms of wealth, good health, academic excellence, career progressions in business or in governance and a host of endeavors and perspectives. The abilities or capabilities to excel and perform certain difficult feats especially in the critical areas of preserving and sustaining human lives under highly challenging circumstances is one good example of hallmark of success. This pointer fortunately is the essence and focus of the vintage marathon media-medical exchange of FMC Umuahia and Abia Facts Newspaper (AFN). The guest/personality of the media interface programme Dr. Erondu M. Anosike and his associates personify another face of success. Now read on! 

Monday June 10, 2019 provided rare and long awaited opportunity for Abia Facts Newspaper (AFN) to engage one of the accomplished senior Medical Consultants in Federal Medical Center (FMC) Umuahia on exciting media-medical interaction and session. It was the first of its kind. Prior to this important media exchange/interface no media organization had ever conducted extensive and in-depth examinations or investigations on the subject/topic on the front burners of the media discourse with FMC Umuahia Medical personnel. From the beginning to the end the media engagement turned out to be indeed special and unique.

Accordingly the information contents are highly enlightening and useful to members of the public especially of immense interest and benefit to patients suffering or predisposed to experience kidney ailments. Dr. Erondu M. Anosike, Consultant anesthesiologist is the HOD, Department of Anesthesia; Chairman, Renal Transplant Team; Chairman Theatre Users Committee, FMC Umuahia, took advantage of the media chat to highlight important subjects/issues on the activities and accomplishments of RTU/FMC Umuahia on medical management of kidney disease conditions.

From left: Prof Al Hasan, Dr Erondu, Dr Acho, Dr Okwuonu during the last Renal transplant surgery at FMC Umuahia

Asked to describe in layman or ordinary language what kidney failure disease conditions and transplants as medical remedies mean, Dr. Erondu responded as follows. Kidney is a vital organ in the human system used to eliminate unwanted fluids and toxins. Kidney failure simply means the inability of the kidney or when the kidney is no longer able to perform these important biological functions effectively, Dr. Erondu explained. Kidney failure can also be viewed in terms of poor state of functioning of these vital organs at different levels which include namely partial or complete failure as manifestations of kidney disease conditions. Kidney failure can progress from Chronic kidney disease (CKD) to End Stage Renal Disease (ERSD) stages. At these stages kidney patients considerably qualify for dialysis treatments for support and survival. Kidney disease conditions at the CKD or ERSD stages mean generally the kidney is as good as having failed according to Dr. Erondu’s analyses and explanations. At these stages kidney transplants become necessary even inevitable for the survival of the patients. In this respect transplants accordingly simply mean and entail the replacements of the affected kidneys with another functioning kidney organs.

What about the causes or conditions likely to be responsible for kidney ailments Erondu was asked. Two commonest causes identified include poorly managed kidney disease related conditions of hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes specifically Erondu explained. Other possible causes are drug induced particularly illicit drug abuse, congenital cases, infections and many others. Regular medical checks and proper management of disease conditions at the early stages of development can go a long way as appropriate measures or steps necessary to prevent or arrest further deterioration  of possible kidney ailment and failure. Erondu maintained and emphasized the need to be alert and responsive in monitoring closely health status on regular basis.

In terms of high incidence or prevalence and susceptibilities to experience kidney ailments among different human races and gender (male/female) perspectives, the respondent pointed out that based on some available statistical medical data, Africans and males seem to be more prone to suffer or experience kidney ailments and failure. The relatively higher ratios among Africans and males known to have been predisposed to experience kidney ailments can be attributed to several factors. Notwithstanding, research findings are inconclusive to justify these perceptions authoritatively, Erondu disclosed.

Are there alternative treatments/remedies available at the moment for kidney patients to explore besides kidney transplants, AFN queried? The respondent stated dialysis can serve as the best known alternative remedial measure presently especially in cases of acute or chronic kidney disease conditions. Dialysis treatments are very expensive he remarked in addition. The nature or gravity of the conditions determine the kinds of treatments required involving either dialysis or transplants. Another significant question centered on the known facts that it takes generally long time to handle cases of kidney transplants, why so and what could be done effectively to reduce meaningfully the element of prolonged timeframe. The Interviewee responding carefully explained the various stages and processes involved to successfully carry out transplants. First, Erondu, pointed out that the major essence of any transplant case is to ensure the life of the patient is preserved and not endangered in the course of the transplant surgery. This vital goal requires detailed and meticulous attention/observations are maintained at the highest levels possible at any given time. The medical procedures involved are complex, time consuming and involving two major operations on two persons specifically the kidney donor to harvest the kidney and finally on the kidney recipient at the transplant stage. These two important operations require at least five hours for completion respectively depending on the techniques and speed of the surgeons handling the operations. Erondu explained compressing the time factor is inconsequential in consideration of ensuring high degrees of successful outcomes of transplants as the ultimate end in the minds of medical professionals concerned.

Are there any hopes or prospects of reducing reasonably the huge financial requirements to make kidney transplants more affordable relatively, was another important issue raised. His response analyzed carefully different stages and procedures ranging from laboratory tests and thorough investigations carried out on prospective kidney donors and recipients to ensure perfect match at the preliminary stages. Some of these complex tests and investigations are carried out at the moment only oversees at huge costs and take reasonable time. In terms of drugs as much as N250,000 per dose (ampoule/bottle) and in most cases about ten doses are required especially for immuno suppressants/drugs. Multiply N250,000 by 10 and one begins to appreciate the sums of monies involved only at some specific stages of the treatment processes and procedures, Erondu pointed out. The way out is to encourage financial assistance/donations from corporate organizations, foundations, wealthy individuals, religious bodies, civil society initiatives, etc, as financial interventions. Erondu cited as example what is obtainable in US and other Western nations to buttress this argument. About $150,000 is required to perform transplants in US. This amount normally is sourced and defrayed through the health insurance schemes. The respondent advocated similar practice in Nigeria. Explaining the relatively slow pace and progress in medical research in terms of significant breakthrough deficits in cloning kidney organs compared to significant advancement in other medical branches, the respondent disclosed the research initiatives on kidney are still at infancy levels but progressing steadily. Great hopes and optimisms were expressed on tremendous results and progress likely to be recorded and beneficial results as in other branches of the medical profession in the future.

Highpoint of the media-medical interface was the acknowledgement by AFN of the significant successes by RTU/FMC in kidney transplants. The critical question hinged on what year exactly the first and the last transplants were recorded, and disclosures of the identity of the medical personnel who performed the feats. Calmly and with great sense of candour, Dr. Erondu went down memory lane with feelings of nostalgia and reeled out the accounts of the episodes very fresh in his memory. December 7, 2017¸was very significant in these contexts. First transplant was handled successfully on this memorable day. Interestingly and coincidentally it was also even more significant and remarkable for Dr. Erondu personally the date being the anniversary of his birthday. On December 8, 2017 (a day later) another successful transplant case was recorded by the RTU. In effect two successful cases occurred on December 2017. In January 2018, another batch of two successful cases were equally handled. In April 24, 2019, the last successful case was handled tallying  five cases to date. Dr. Erondu remembered fondly and paid tributes to the pioneering efforts of the following persons: Dr. George Acho, Dr. Okwuonu Chimezie, Dr. Obi Ekwenna (Chief Surgeon from Toledo Ohio, US,) and Dr. Erondu M. Anosike (Respondent) as the great men and consultants who performed these medical feats. AFN also took Dr. Erondu to task and queried him to justify why or what credentials qualified him to be the leader of FMC Umuahia RTU Team. Simple but impressive responses were commitment/dedication to duty, high integrity perceptions and confidenceof the respective management boards/committees and leaderships of FMC. Besides Erondu explained he has served in different leadership capacities. For instance leader of the five-man FMC Team comprising 3 Medical Doctors and two nurses (Erondu inclusive) on medical exchange programme to understudy Renal Transplant in the University of Toledo Medical Center US. The exposures and experience gained in the exchange programme counted immensely to his credits. Above all Dr. Erondu insisted God deserves all the glory in this particular context and in other important aspects of his life. Obviously no team can perform these significant medical accomplishments without surmounting various degrees or barriers and challenges. What challenges confronted and what are the challenges confronting RTU/FMC specifically; and what necessary attention and encouragement the RTU has received AFN quizzed. Dearth or unavailability of kidney organs donors was singled out as a major constraint. Presently in Nigeria Medically certified brain-dead persons or the families’ members are highly averse to the concept/idea of donating organs of these categories of people upon death. This situation is in direct contrast to what is generally applicable in the Western societies, where such organs are harvested for use to support patients of any disease organs conditions. Blames where apportioned accordingly to the following factors and influences including fetish beliefs, customs and tradition hangovers, ignorance and similar issues. Financial constraints hinder kidney disease conditions patients accessing necessary and timely medical attention available in RTU FMC. Provisions and procurements of prescribed drugs sourced primarily by means of importation constitute other barriers. In some cases kidney patients approach the RTU for medical attention after the situation had degenerated badly. These issues were cited and highlighted as some of the major constraints by the respondent. FMC Management received credits and commendations in showing immense interests in the continued success of RTU. The Management has demonstrated commitment and zeal to do more to support RTU but unfortunately Management is highly constrained in terms of available resource at its disposal in the face of competing increasing demands and needs in the system generally. What is the likelihood of rise or reduction in kidney ailments in the future AFN inquired, and the response unfortunately was affirmative in the direction of possibilities of increase. The explanations were predicated on harsh economic conditions and resultant perceived inabilities of patients to manage effectively the disease conditions. Pervasive cases of illicit drug abuse were cited as a major concern. Dr. Erondu explained these two examples are favourable/predisposed conditions for renal ailments from medical/clinical perspectives. The guest/respondent disclosed RTU FMC at the moment enjoys and benefits from mutual-beneficial collaborative initiatives with Toledo University and Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Bayero University Kano State. More of these initiatives are expected to expand to other partners locally and internationally in the future.

AFN pointed out the apparent gaps in what RTU/FMC have accomplished respectively and the dearth of effective information and awareness in the public domains in the absence of properly coordinated enlightenment and sensitization programme anchored on information disseminations. Asked to comment, Erondu heaped bulk of the blames on poor media exchange/relationships and awareness on the activities of RTU and larger FMC community. He expressed sincere desires for better and much improved strategic synergies and robust relationships of the media and FMC Umuahia specifically.

The curtains on AFN-RTU/FMC media chat were drawn to close by asking the guest/respondent to express his feelings on sharing his ideas, thoughts and perspectives on important subject and issues and sensitive as the topic of the discourse. The response came in calm, confident, measured and mellow eloquent voice. Dr. Erondu’s closing statements and words are quoted herein: “it is a most welcome development to have me talking to AFN. AFN afforded me the privilege and opportunity never imagined though desired to highlight and share some of our humble accomplishments and the challenges confronting the Renal Transplant Unit. I urge Nigerians to take great advantage of the home-groomed expertise in kidney transplant and stop herding oversees to seek medical attentions on kidney transplants which translates economically to medical tourism to the benefits of the countries and destinations in question”.

It is hoped we heed the counsel by this eminent medical Avatar, Consultant and accomplished Renal Transplant Technician.                                       

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