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Jamaica Kidney Kids Foundation seeks help to tackle kidney disease in children

Published:Friday | July 29, 2022 | 12:10 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

AS THE Jamaica Kidney Kids Foundation (JKKF) celebrates its 10th anniversary, chairperson Dr Maolynne Miller is appealing for more financial support to provide assistance to children impacted by kidney disease.

An estimated 40 to 50 children are battling chronic kidney disease in Jamaica and are at various stages of deterioration. About 15 are in need of kidney transplant.

“It can be quite expensive and a lot of the parents can’t afford to pay for the kidney blood tests, so with the help of Microlabs we do this, and Elite Diagnostics helps with any X-ray that they need and can’t afford to get in the system privately,” Miller said.

Paediatric kidney care is only offered at three centres in Jamaica – Cornwall Regional Hospital, Bustamante Hospital for Children and the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).

“It is only at UHWI that children under 12 can get dialysis. UHWI is a fee-paying hospital, which is why we support them, so that the children don’t have to pay for that expensive dialysis treatment,” the paediatric nephrologist told The Gleaner.

Since 2013, JKKF has been the major supplier of consumables used for paediatric dialysis at UHWI. From 2012 to last year, the foundation donated supplies and equipment amounting to over $30 million.

“We have a vision for the future because at some point, Cornwall Regional is going to get its paediatric hospital and there is a set-up in that whole new plan to have our paediatric dialysis centre there and a paediatric kidney centre that is properly established. We hope to be able to support the equipping of that centre,” she said, adding that it would allow kidney patients in western Jamaica to avoid travelling to Kingston for dialysis.

A big ticket item for the foundation is to have a paediatric kidney specialist trained for Manchester.

Through the foundation’s educational arm, it has financed paediatric nephrology fellowships abroad for two paediatricians, who have returned to the island to ease the local shortage of specialists.

Dr Rebecca Thomas returned from training in Montreal in 2016 and is one of the two paediatric nephrologists at UHWI.

The second scholarship recipient, Dr Nadia McLean, completed training in Toronto in 2019 and is now the first paediatric nephrologist for western Jamaica based at the Cornwall Regional Hospital.

“If we can try and get at least one more specialist trained, that would be fantastic!” she said.

Another goal of the foundation is to establish a kidney registry for children, so that paediatricians can have an idea of the spectrum of disease being treated in Jamaica and to determine what preventive actions can be taken.

“That way, we can assign resources to it and prevent them from going into chronic stages,” Miller reasoned.

Meanwhile, Miller told The Gleaner that only live donor transplants – from a relative or parent – are currently done in Jamaica.

“The children who are on dialysis now are not compatible with their parents and so they have to remain on dialysis. Abroad, you can get a transplant from somebody who died but has good kidneys or someone who is brain dead but has a healthy heart and kidney. However, we do not at this time appear to have the legislation in place to do deceased donor transplantation, which would make more people able to get transplants,” Miller said.

The paediatric nephrologist is also urging Jamaicans to help the foundation to spread awareness about kidney health by inviting them to speak at churches, schools and community centres.

“People need to have a better understanding of how their kidneys function, so they can keep them healthy and recognise early when the kidneys are not working well. If an issue is picked up early, the likelihood of reversing that problem is much better,” she explained.

On July 31, beneficiaries from Montego Bay, Mandeville and Kingston will be treated to a picnic and back-to-school treat at Hope Zoo, to offset costs for the upcoming academic year.

“Giving us donations allow us to address specific needs when they come up. Some of the families are so impoverished that they can’t even afford any of the medicines for blood pressure, the bones or the ones to prevent anaemia or low blood count. We appreciate all the help Jamaicans have given us over the last 10 years. These donations, however small, make a difference in the lives of children,” Miller said.

Here’s where you can make your donations:

Bank: National Commercial Bank

Account Name: Jamaica Kidney Kids Foundation

Account #: 351115882

Branch: Knutsford Boulevard


Donations may be made via credit card or Paypal by clicking the link below: