Kidney disease has become a serious public health concern for Malaysia in recent years. A study carried out in 2018 showed that the prevalence of CKD in the country is 15.48% − a significant increase from just 9.07% in 2011. CKD is categorised in five stages based on the progression of the disease, with end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) or complete kidney failure in stage 5. Most ESKD patients will have to undergo dialysis, or wait in the hopes of receiving kidney transplant. At present, there is no proven treatment for reversing the effects of serious kidney damage.
In a bid to raise awareness on the importance of organ donation, the National Kidney Foundation of Malaysia (NKF), a non-profit organisation, recently organised a Community Organ Donation Drive (CODE): Life Webinar themed “Living Kidney Transplant”.
The webinar was moderated by Dr Maisarah Jalalonmuhali, a consultant nephrologist and physician from University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) and featured a wide-ranging discussion on the realities of living with kidney disease and the misconceptions surrounding organ donation. Other speakers included Dr Wan Zul Haikal Hafiz, medical lecturer and clinical specialist nephrology from Hospital Pengajar Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) as well as Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) patients who shared their personal experiences of coping with the condition.
Dr Wan Zul Haikal Hafiz explained that kidney transplant is an ideal treatment option to change the lives of ESKD patients. “We encourage donor transplantation from those whom the patient has an emotional tie with − not only from immediate family members like parents and siblings but also their spouse and extended blood relatives. We want to do the best for the patients and lower the chances of the donated organ from being rejected.”
Adding on, Dr Maisarah Jalalonmuhali urged for patients who have willing donors, even if they are unrelated to come forward and consult a nephrologist. “Don’t be shy or conclude that the procedure cannot be done. If the nephrologist decides that the unrelated patient and donor can move forward with the procedure, they will be referred to an independent body called ‘Unrelated’ – with interviews conducted to ensure that there is no conflict of interests between the patient and donor. They will then decide if they can proceed with the transplant procedure.”
With deceased organ donation rates in Malaysia currently standing at just 0.86 donors per million inhabitants, ESKD patients have to contend with long waiting times for their transplants. Compared to receiving kidney transplants from deceased donors, those from living donors offer better outcomes and long-term survival for patients.
Webinar attendees were also moved by the heart-warming sharing session with kidney transplant recipients as well as the inspiring stories of their generous donors. Sharing their struggles of living with ESKD, donor recipients highlighted the many ways their lives improved after a kidney transplant; from being able to enjoy an active lifestyle to being free from constant dialysis treatments.
One of the speakers for this session was Mohamad Rafi Mohd Isa, a teacher who described his arduous journey of living with stage 4 kidney disease for almost eight years – transforming the dialysis centre into a ‘playground’ for his children while he was hooked to a dialysis machine for a four-hour treatment, three times a week. He expressed his joy at getting a second lease of life from his wife, Nur Asyikin Mohamad Nadzri, who also shared her experience of being an organ donor. Echoing the sentiments of the other organ donor in the session, Nur Asyikin dispelled fears around being a living organ donor as she continues to lead a healthy and fulfilling life.
Another kidney transplant recipient and his donor that were featured during the sharing session was Malaysian actor Mohd Eyzendy Aziz or famously known as Along Eyzendy, an ESKD patient and his wife, Hamidah Mohd Yatim – an ‘angel without wings’ that provided him a second chance at life. After undergoing surgery recently, both Along Eyzendy and Hamidah are grateful they got the opportunity for the life-saving procedure. This is a bond that will tie these two pairs of lovebirds together forever!
The online event was completed with a Q&A session between the speakers and attendees.
While a transplant is not a cure for kidney failure, transplant recipients will have a significantly longer and better quality of life.
Members of the public who are interested in contributing towards this cause of helping patients with kidney failure can find out more through NKF’s website at nkf.org.my/ or call 03-7954 9048.
NKF currently has over 1,700 dialysis patients receiving subsidized dialysis treatment in 27 dialysis centres nationwide.