When Patricia Quammie first heard that her kidneys were failing and that she was in urgent need of dialysis to stay alive she fell into a trance.
“I kept thinking today I am a normal person but tomorrow I can only survive through a machine,” Quammie told Guardian Media. That day was 27 years ago. Quammie at that time was a mother of three. Her youngest, Tianna, was a toddler while her eldest Tynisa was a teenager preparing for her CXC exam. Quammie’s journey to that life-changing diagnosis began a couple of weeks earlier when she began experiencing a throbbing headache.
On that Friday Quammie went to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital to seek medical attention. She left the hospital feeling better but on Sunday the headache returned even worse. Everything she ate she threw up. She was losing weight rapidly. “I was looking like death. I was really a mess,” Quammie said.
Quammie’s younger brother Peter concerned about her health took her to Dr Telemaque.
Dr Telemaque felt her kidneys were the source of her medical problem and referred her to specialist Dr Poon King. Poon King confirmed the situation.
Quammie remembers having an out of body experience seeing Dr Poon King explain the severity of the situation to Peter. For ten years Quammie underwent dialysis twice a week. Peter helped pay for the treatment.
It was the best option at the time as the family could not afford the US$250,000 bill for the transplant she really needed.
But then, in 2006, the option for a transplant done locally at the public hospital was presented to Quammie.
Peter stepped up to the plate and offered to give her one of his kidneys. He passed all of the tests to confirm his compatibility.
The transplant was scheduled for January of that year but a gland issue caused the surgery to be postponed.
A surgery in May to correct the gland issue meant the transplant carded for June would also have to be postponed.
Eventually, it was the third time’s the charm for Quammie. On September 20, 2006, the transplant was done and it was a success.
This year Quammie celebrates 15 years since that surgery. “Kidney disease does not have to be a death sentence.”
She is now a grandmother and without the transplant, she believes this would not have been possible.
“I don’t know if I will live or die. My life is in God’s hands,” she said.
She takes tablets daily and has had to make adjustments to her diet but Quammie said she is living well.
Today we celebrate World Kidney Day 2021. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Living Well with Kidney Disease.” The aim is to encourage life participation through patient empowerment by increasing education and awareness. The focus on kidney health has expanded beyond disease prevention and management and now includes empowering patients and care-partners to reduce the burden of chronic kidney disease-related (CKD) symptoms.
In T&T there are more than 1,000 people who receive dialysis to treat CKD with 80-90 new patients added annually. It’s the fourth leading cause of death in T&T.
Advocacy for Kidney Health
The Kidney Recipient Support Group of T&T is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion of kidney health and awareness of kidney disease and organ donation in T&T.
The group comprises organ donors and recipients, patients awaiting kidney transplants and supporters.
The group assists in community outreach programmes to create awareness. In 2019, they partnered with Repsol with the “Become a Donor Educational Symposium” to create awareness and educate secondary school students on kidney disease and different modes of treatment with a focus on organ donation.
The group’s main event to promote kidney and donor awareness is the Annual Walk-a-thon and Health Fair hosted on the Sunday after World Kidney Day. This will not be held this year, however, because of the COVID pandemic.
The National Organ Transplant Unit (NOTU) was established in 2006 and is responsible for providing continuous, comprehensive and state of the art surgical support to the National Renal Programme.
Since the inception of the organ donation programme, 195 organs were transplanted from both living and deceased donors.
Organ donation remains the gold-standard for all end-organ failures and provides the recipients with an improved quality of life.
The gifting of one’s organs and tissue, to patients in need, remains a highly-understated sacrifice. We encourage everyone to consider being a donor, either living or deceased. Be someone’s hero.
Further information on referring potential recipients or registering to be an organ/tissue donor can be obtained using 663-7663/1703 or emailing NOTU at email@example.com.