Imagine being told you had 6 weeks to live.
Now imagine knowing that if you lived anywhere other than Africa, you could probably be cured.
Imagine being 14 years old and knowing this.
Meet Felix Yeboah, a Ghanaian teenager with chronic kidney failure.
On Sunday, March 3, in a life-saving emergency operation, Felix received his father’s kidney at the University Hospital in Birmingham, UK, care of Transplant Links, an organization of experienced kidney transplant doctors who volunteer their time and abilities in countries like Ghana.
According to an article in a Ghanian newspaper from August 2006, kidney failure in Ghana forms 35% of medical admissions. Out of the 5000-8000 patients in Ghana, only 35 received haemodialysis (a nessary procedure to prevent total kidney failure) per year! As of the time of that article, there were 17 haemodialysis machines in the entire country.
According to the Transplant Links website, in some African countries, HIV/AIDS is more treatable than Kidney Failure.
This past November, Felix addressed the crowd at the first meeting of the Kidney Transplant Foundation. In the crowd was surgeon Andrew Ready of the Transplant Links organization. He was deeply moved by Felix:
“Felix emerged from the crowd and came up to the podium to speak. He was so small he had to be held up to be seen […] There are ethical issues around selecting people to help in these circumstances but we were so taken by Felix’s speech that we thought we must try to do something. It was as if he had found us rather than we had found him.”
What will Felix Yeboah do now?
“ I want this operation so I can play football again and go to school so I can train to become a doctor and help other people.”
His is a tale of being in the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, this is not the case for millions of suffers from chronic kidney failure in Africa.
Kidney disease is an awful experience but with modern day medicine it can be survived and overcome.
The story of Felix demonstrates the importance of organizations such as Transplant Links. Yearly checkups, vaccinations, and treatments, all things you and I probably take for granted, can save lives in countries such as Ghana.
To learn more about organizations like Transplant Links and volunteer opportunities check out these links:
Check out the official website of Transplant Links.
World Kidney Day is March 13th
Use your medical experience to make an impact with Doctors Without Borders
Not Pre-Med? No problem! Join the Global Health Corps and volunteer overseas in the area of Public Health