Cousins Rahaim Francois, 23, and Rickquan Robertson, 18, both struggle with end-stage renal failure or kidney failure. The cousins are now dependent on weekly dialysis treatment for survival while waiting for kidney transplants.
They have not been able to find compatible donors.
During an interview with the Newsroom on Monday, Francois’ mother, Bernadette Francois, explained that because more than one relative suffers from the disease, no family member can be a donor.
As such, the cousins are hopeful that the legal framework for cadaveric or brain-dead organ donor transplants will soon be realized. This may be the only option to save their lives as well as many others with no donors.
Before August 2020, Francois lived a normal life. He was an operations officer at Air Services Limited. This all changed drastically for the young man born in Ituni after he was diagnosed.
“When I was diagnosed it hurt, because it was hard to identify someone like me who doesn’t drink or smoke.
“I not only questioned myself, I questioned God and asked why someone like me did everything possible to have a healthy life and to discover that you have kidney failure and not just kidney failure, end-stage kidney failure, ”Rahaim told the Newsroom.
His diagnosis followed six months after Robertson was diagnosed with the same condition.
Rickquan of No.21 Village, West Coast Berbice was a student at Fort Wellington High School and was preparing for the 2020 Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Education Exam when he was diagnosed. Because of his condition, Riquan had to leave school. For him, it took a while for his diagnosis to register.
“When I first found out I had kidney failure, I didn’t believe it because I never knew it would happen to me.
“I used to watch TV and say, these things can’t happen to me. And after a while on dialysis, like half a year, I started to believe that I was really having end-stage kidney failure, ”said Riquan.
Rahaim and Riquan have to undergo dialysis three times a week at a cost of $ 12,000 per session at the 5G Dialysis Center in South Ruimveldt Georgetown. The treatment has taken a toll on the boys’ families, both financially and physically.
“Dialysis is a means of survival, but it is also damaging to our bodies. It damages our bones, brain, eyesight and everything. It’s something to keep you going for a while but the goal is a transplant, ”Rahaim noted.
Riquan’s mother, Tracy Archibald, a housewife and mother of three, travels from Berbice three times a week just so her son could be treated. With the boy’s condition they are also unable to travel by public transport especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He used to have some vomiting and weakness and so on so I decided to take him to the doctor to do some checking and that’s when we discovered he had kidney failure. His health condition is getting worse, he’s getting worse and he can’t help himself most of the times, ”said Riquan’s mother, Tracy.
Meanwhile, for Bernadette, who is a single mother of four and works as a school porter, it has been difficult since Rahaim’s diagnosis. He revealed that some days it was almost like being a toddler again.
“Before the doctors diagnosed him with kidney failure, he used to complain of fatigue and was sometimes a little dizzy. It’s still rough so far, because many times it’s right back to the stage of toddlers, you have to do everything for it, ”said Bernadette.
Initially, both mothers wanted to be donors to the boys but due to more than one family member being diagnosed with kidney failure, this is not possible. The mothers explained that they then sought other donors but did not either contest or opt out.
Meanwhile, the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation continues to fight for the necessary legislation to save lives and help resolve the burden of kidney failure in Guyana. This can be done through cadaveric transplants, where organs are harvested by brain-dead patients and given to others. The public hospital has the capacity and equipment for this operation but there is no legislation to govern it. However, there is now some hope for patients with kidney failure.
The Human Organ Transplant Bill is expected to be introduced in Parliament on or before May 2021. Guyana Medical Council together with the Head of the Department of Multi-Organ Transplantation and Vascular Access Surgery, Dr Kishore Persaud, and his team from Georgetown Public Hospital in earlier this month he met with Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General Anil Nandlall. The meeting dealt with the enactment of legislation governing the transplantation of human tissue into the body of another living person and ethical issues relating to this operation.
“I think it would be good because it not only benefits us in the long run, it benefits people like us who don’t have a donor and just like most transplants wouldn’t need two transplants people in their lifetime.
“Finding one donor is much less difficult to find in the next 15 years when you would need another transplant,” said Rahaim as he shared his thoughts on the legislation.
In the meantime, the boys’ health condition has taken a toll on both families financially and in order to keep up with the costs of treatment and other expenses, they are asking for help. Individuals willing to contribute to helping the family can contact +592 608 0482, +592 651 4404 or +592 671 3358.