Millions of South Africans suffer from chronic kidney disease with obesity, smoking, poor diet and a lack of exercise increasing a person’s risk of getting the disease.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially hard on those with kidney disease as they have a low immune system and therefore, more susceptible to get coronavirus.
37-year-old Refilwe Masike of Kanana in the North West was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2016. This brought about by high blood pressure and diabetes. Her life has changed drastically.
“It has affected me in many ways. I have to go to work; the kids, the husband, my studies. I do not have enough time really. But there is nothing I can do without being on treatment. Without treatment, I will not make it.”
Masike says she has been on a waiting list for a transplant for some time but due to the scarcity of her blood type which is O positive, she has not found a suitable match.
Her life has, however, been made easier by someone who herself suffered from kidney failure.
Medical professional Beverly Cane was diagnosed with kidney disease in 1993 and received a donor kidney three years later.
Working at the Tshepong Hospital in Klerksdorp, she saw more and more patients having to wait for dialysis.
Understanding the importance of getting proper treatment and hoping to alleviate the influx of patients having to visit local hospitals, she opened her own clinic.
“There is a lot of patients in this area that had a need for the dialysis unit in this area. That was one of my motivations why I opened the unit here. It’s to help people so that they do not have to travel so far to get to the treatment that they need so much.”
The recent COVID-19 pandemic is also taking its toll on those with kidney disease.
Renal clinic owner, Beverly Cane says, “So, it is very difficult with my patients because they have low immunity and they cannot really move around. So, they have to come here three times a week and most of them have to travel by taxi. So, they have to take extra special care of themselves because they are much more vulnerable to contract COVID-19.”
With so many people suffering from kidney disease, awareness is even more critical.
“I am aware of this disease, kidney failure and what I am doing to prevent it is to drink a lot of water and eat healthily,” says one resident.
Cane has urged patients who are on the kidney donor waiting list to take care of their health and attend treatment regularly.