The donors came forward during the foundation’s month-long awareness programme on kidney health

Health: Bhutan Kidney Foundation is richer by four kidney donors.

The foundation received the offer to donate kidneys from two adults and two youth, during their month-long awareness programme on kidney health that covered 19 dzongkhags.

Foundation officials said that, among the four interested donors, two were aged 20 and 17.  The 17-year-old is a female student.  However, they will have to wait until they turn 27 years to be able to donate their organs.

The foundation’s executive director, Tashi Namgay, said these donors expressed their interest to donate after attending the awareness programme. “It’s a good move as they came forward without any sort of demand.”

While the youth will have to wait, the other two (adults) are subject to confirmation, as BKF officials will also have to obtain their parents’ and spouses’ consent to the decision.  “Once finalised, the donors will undergo several medical tests to check whether their organs are fit and match with the patients,” Tashi Namgay said.

BKF initiated the advocacy programme following the rising cases of chronic kidney disease (CKD).  The event kicked off from Gaeddu College of Business Studies on February 13, with support from dzongkhags and schools.  Seven volunteers and two BKF staff were involved in the programme, during which about Nu 430,000 from the Civil Society Organisation fund facility, and Nu 80,000 donated by two individuals were spent.

A documentary on kidney health in Bhutan was screened and talks were held during the event that was attended by about 11,000 people.  A health screening was done, where it was found that most people had high blood pressure, including many students.

“This is a big concern for the foundation, with non-communicable diseases being a huge burden on health,” Tashi Namgay said. “You don’t have to suffer from CKD to know the disease, there are always ways to prevent yourself.”

Records with the Thimphu referral hospital show that, from mid 2011 to mid 2014, 36 CKD patients were referred to Kolkata.  About 20 got kidneys transplanted from non-related donors, on which the health ministry spent about Nu 9.5M (million).  Another 100 patients were referred to Christian Medical College in Vellore from 2006 to mid 2014, of which 84 had kidney transplants.  For every transplant, the ministry spends about Nu 1.2M to Nu 2.5M.

Health officials said limited dialysis machines and increasing CKD patients is a major issue.  From eight cases in 1998, when the dialysis unit at Thimphu referral was first established, there are about 137 CKD cases today.

At the JDWNRH’s patient guesthouse, of the 27 patients, a majority are CKD cases on dialysis treatment.  Finding a kidney donor is a major challenge for most kidney patients, owing to which some have lived on dialysis for more than a decade.  Most patients come from deprived families without any source of income.

To support these patients, the foundation also collected donations during the event to establish the endowment fund for kidney patients.  Foundation officials said they would open the donation box only after the final event in Thimphu this week.

The endowment fund had to be established, said officials, after the home ministry restricted the collection of donation for kidney transplantation since last year.  The decision came following misuse of the donation money by relatives, and in line with international norms.

While there were cases of misuse of donation money, foundation officials said there were also patients in dire need of money. “The endowment fund will help the foundation further support needy patients and relatives by providing basic necessities,” Tashi Namgay said.

There are several criteria for the endowment fund, based on which the fund would be utilised after approval by the BKF board.  Through the endowment fund, transplant recipients, besides patients and their children, will also receive support henceforth.  The foundation has been supporting seven students, whose parents are kidney failure patients, in various parts of the country.  The students are given uniforms, school fees, books and stationaries every year.

By Kinga Dema