“More than 20 million Nigerians are living with kidney disease and no fewer than 20,000 of the number are coming down with End Stage Kidney Disease (ESKD) yearly…”
It was a sweet early Monday morning, waking up to the first ray of sunlight lit up my room and the soothing sound of perching birds on the trees right behind my window.
Far away from family, in a remote village, somewhere in the southwestern part of Nigeria, missing the thrills and glitz of city life, was where I found abode.
Just about time to prepare for my daily activities, my phone rang, and it was a routine morning call from my mum, or so I thought.
“Hello Mummy, good morning ma,” I said, “Ola, Oko mi,” she responded in Yoruba (meaning Ola, my dear); I suddenly realised this was not the lively, lightening and serene voice I was used to.
“Are you okay? You sound different,” I curiously asked, as she sounded so weak and distressed; “can you come home?” she requested, “I need to see you,” she added.
Without hesitation, I packed my bags and headed for the city, curiously wondering what could be wrong with the ever-happy and bubbling woman I’ve known all my life.
‘Home, Sweet Home’, maybe not so sweet again, as I walked into a tense atmosphere and saw my mum being a shadow of herself.
“What happened to you Mummy?” as she gave me the most shocking news I ever imagined; “Renal failure,” she said, “I have been diagnosed with kidney failure.”
I felt a moment of pain and despair as tears built up in my eyes; Many questions I wanted to ask, what went wrong?
Kidney and Its Functions
Kidneys are fist-sized organs located at the bottom of the rib cage on both sides of the spine performing several functions.
Their most important functions are to filter waste products, excess water, and other impurities from the blood, stored in the bladder and later expelled through urine.
Kidneys regulate pH, salt, and potassium levels while producing hormones that regulate blood pressure and control the production of red blood cells in the body.
What Causes Kidney Failure?
There is a sudden rise in failed kidneys among Africans, as the report suggests that over 20 Million Nigerians have a kidney-related disease.
The Guardian newspaper, published on March 10, 2022, read, “Today is World Kidney Day (WKD). More than 20 million Nigerians are living with kidney disease and no fewer than 20,000 of the number are coming down with End Stage Kidney Disease (ESKD) yearly requiring dialysis or/and transplant to stay alive, according to medical experts.”
According to the National Kidney Foundation, Kidney failure is a function of several conditions, but the two most common causes are high blood pressure and diabetes.
Medical experts have identified hypertension, diabetes, chronic infections such as hepatitis B and C, Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV), sickle cell anaemia, painkillers, and bleaching creams as causes of kidney failure in Nigeria.
Symptoms of Kidney Diseases
Kidney disease is a condition that can easily go unnoticed until the symptoms become severe and damaging.
The diagnosis can only be through a test by a medical professional, but few symptoms can help with early detection.
Blood in urine, swelling of the legs, Nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, back pain, skin rash or itch, fatigue and muscle cramps are many of the symptoms to look out for.
How to Avoid Kidney Failure
- Regular Exercise: People with ‘High Blood Pressure (HBP)’, run the risk of Kidney disease. However, frequent exercise lowers blood pressure, improves muscle function and cholesterol while keeping a healthy body weight, and improves sleep.
- Reduce Sugar Intake: Diabetes or conditions relating to high blood sugar may cause damage to the kidney. The kidney works extra hard to filter excess sugar in the blood, and over years of exertion can lead to life-threatening damage to it.
- Regular Water Intake: Drinking water is essential to a healthy lifestyle because it helps the body stay hydrated. Drinking at least 1.5 to 2 Litres of water daily helps to flush toxins and sodium in the kidney.
- Stop Smoking: “Smokers are liable to die young” is a saying after every cigarette advert. Smoking damages the blood vessels and leads to slower blood flow through the body and kidneys.
- Reduce Alcohol Intake: Knowing one’s limit is vital to living a healthy life. Heavy intake of alcohol can cause the collapse of the kidney due to the high toxins the kidney finds difficult to break down.
- Abuse of Pain Relieving Drugs: Frequent intake of Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen and naproxen, can cause damage to the kidneys. It is advisable to see a doctor if one experiences frequent body pains and headaches.
- Herbal Concoction: The regular intake of herbal concoctions, popularly called “Agbo”, can cause adverse damage to the kidney. This plant-based drink is high in toxins which overwork the kidney.
- Eating Healthy: A healthy diet containing fresh ingredients while avoiding high sodium meals, processed meats, and other kidney-damaging foods may help reduce the risk of kidney damage.
Kidney failure is said to be one of the high causes of youth mortality in Nigeria today because it is difficult to manage.
The cost of a kidney transplant is expensive, getting a kidney donor can be daunting and frequent dialysis is not pocket friendly.
The old phrase that says, “you never miss your health until it’s gone”, is true, and prevention they say is better than cure.
Focusing on having a healthy body and healthy living is preserving and improving life.
What was Mummy’s crime in all of this? Which of these warnings did she ignore? Is it mother nature’s way of telling us to do better with our health?
In all of this, the best investment you will ever have to make is your health; take charge of it and you will be glad you did.