Health & WellnessLifestyles

Wear green for kidney bean

During Kidney Disease Awareness month, sibling who gave brother an organ hopes people will support those affected 

When Tamika Roberts decided to donate one of her kidneys to her younger brother Antonio Roberts, who was in kidney failure, she did so, knowing that she wanted to help give her brother a normal life. With both his kidneys in failure, and knowing that he needed a kidney transplant, or face the remainder of his life on dialysis, she said she could not live with her brother on dialysis, knowing that she could help.

“I saw what he went through three days a week, four hours on the machine each time. I saw what he was like when he came off the dialysis machine. He has two young children to provide for. I thought about him not being here for his children. I said if I could help him in any way for him to be here, I would do it for my niece and nephew. And when we traveled, we had to make arrangements at dialysis centers wherever we were going and then drop him off at the facility while we went shopping. I felt bad for him, especially with him being younger than me. Then, there’s the fact that I see what dialysis does to patients. Dialysis totally changes you. It deforms them and strips them off their dignity,” she said.

Roberts wanted to give her brother his dignity back and encourages people, if they can, to do the same for others.

“If they are healthy enough, I would say go through the testing process,” said the living donor.

She said people have to think of and answer for themselves, the question: why?

“Why would you do it? Why are you doing it? Is it worth it? The answer to your why will push you.

“My why – I didn’t know what the process was, or if I was healthy enough. My why was I could not live with my brother on dialysis. If I could help give somebody else a chance at a better way of living, why not? Once you evaluate your why, it becomes easier.”

Roberts donated a kidney to her brother in 2018. She does not regret doing it.

She does, however, admit that the process is an emotional experience and one she went in not knowing what to expect. Not glossing over the reality of donating a kidney, she describes it as a “come-to-Jesus moment”. She was told she, too, could lose her life. She had to meet a social service worker, and go through talks on her will, and will preparation (if she didn’t have one), and her instructions on DNR (do not resuscitate).

“It’s real – and I went through all of that.”

March is Kidney Awareness Month during which emphasis is placed on raising awareness and focus on building paths to better kidney care. Roberts, who is president of the Bahamas Kidney Association (BKA), said she wants to highlight dialysis patients because “they go through so much”.

After the brother and sister’s story was told, kidney patients started reaching out to the duo, trying to find out what the siblings did and to speak to them about wanting to get a transplant, and just share their stories. In an effort to get the best information to the people that reached out to them, they tried to find a kidney association to direct the patients to. They found the Kidney Foundation of The Bahamas, headed by Dr. Ada Thompson, but it was a non-functioning organization. They went on to found the BKA, a non-profit organization that Roberts said is not only essential – but critical in the prevention and management of kidney disease in The Bahamas.

“Building on the incredible legacy of Dr. Ada Thompson, who championed kidney disease awareness for many years, the BKA was established to carry on her work with her continued support. The BKA has two main purposes – to improve the lives of persons affected by kidney disease and to reduce the instances of kidney failure in The Bahamas.”

During kidney disease awareness month, it is Roberts’ hope that people join with them in support of those people affected by wearing green every Friday during March. And tag the BKA showing themselves and their friends or family on TikTok, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #weargreenforkidneybean.

The group aims to raise public awareness in the ongoing fight against kidney disease.

Chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a condition in which the kidneys are damaged and cannot filter blood as well as they should. Because of this, excess fluid and waste from blood remain in the body and may cause other health problems, such as heart disease and stroke.

Other health consequences of CKD include anemia or low number of red blood cells, increased occurrence of infections, low calcium levels, high potassium levels, and high phosphorus levels in the blood, loss of appetite or eating less, or depression or lower quality of life.

CKD has varying levels of seriousness. If left untreated, CKD can progress to kidney failure and early cardiovascular disease. When the kidneys stop working, dialysis or kidney transplant is needed for survival. Kidney failure treated with dialysis or kidney transplant is called end-stage renal disease.

Risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, family history of CKD and obesity.

Since its formation, the BKA has engaged in a number of initiatives around the island, giving out free blood pressure and glucose tests to the public. Roberts said through the effort, the medical staff they utilized found people with high blood pressure and glucose who did not even know and were able to advise them accordingly. They have also hosted informative webinars on diet and nutrition, mainly for kidney patients and those at risk, particularly on foods they should and should not eat for good kidney health.

Moving forward, Roberts said they want to stage preventive campaigns such as exercise classes to get people exercising, and drinking more water.

Kidney-friendly tips include a stable blood pressure; if you have diabetes, staying in your target blood sugar range as much as possible; getting active; losing weight if overweight; getting tested for CKD regularly if you’re at risk; if you have CKD, meeting with a dietician to create a kidney-healthy eating plan; taking medications as instructed; and quit smoking, if you smoke, as it can worsen.

The Bahamas Kidney Association was incorporated in April 2021.

“Our mission is really to support persons who have kidney disease, and reduce instances of kidney failure in The Bahamas,” said Roberts. “What we truly want to do requires funding.”

To support BKA, donations can be sent to CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank, JFK Branch – transit 29067, account name: Bahamas Kidney Association, account number: 201747463.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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