The Cayman Islands Kidney Foundation was officially inaugurated Tuesday at the Cayman Islands Hospital.
Chaired by Dr. Frits Hendriks, a nephrologist and internist with 25 years experience in renal disease and kidney transplantation, the foundation has several objectives.
The foundation aims to improve the identification of kidney disease in patients, assist in providing dialysis machines, facilitate kidney transplant programmes overseas, help in the prevention of kidney disease, promote education, and encourage research and prevention of the disease.
But, as Madame Justice Priya Levers, foundation secretary explained, the organisation will also do whatever else it can to help kidney patients. ‘If in any way we can contribute to the successful transplant for a patient, we will do whatever we can do,’ she said.
For now, the only treatment available at the hospital is haemodialysis, a procedure whereby the patient’s blood is filtered through an artificial kidney. The procedure can take from three to five hours, depending on the patient’s body size.
In Cayman, 29 patients undergo the procedure three times a week. Cost can be prohibitive, though, at about CI$100,000 per patient each year.
The number of patients is expected to increase, Dr. Hendriks explained, as Cayman has one of the highest incidences of end-stage kidney disease worldwide. The two main causes are high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus, and the main treatments are dialysis and transplantation.
While a transplant will release the patient from the rigors of dialysis, it is extremely difficult to arrange the surgery overseas.
‘Of the transplants performed in other countries, only about four percent of the patients are from overseas,’ Dr. Hendriks said. ‘There is a huge waiting list abroad for the surgery,’ he added.
Through the foundation, Madame Justice Levers hopes to be able to approach various centres abroad to get Caymanian patients placement on their transplant lists. ‘We will lobby for patients to get assistance overseas.’
Other founding members on the board are Elaire McLaughlin, a nurse in the dialysis unit; David Foster; Felecia Galbraith, who is the treasurer; social worker Julie Faulkner; and anaesthetist Dr. K. Vivek.
The foundation will be organising various fundraising activities including a ‘renal week’, which will also serve to inform the public about kidney disease.
‘We urge the public: do not think kidney disease won’t happen to me. And, we ask the public to be as generous as possible to the foundation,’ said Madame Justice Levers.