There are currently over 3,300 patients in need of a transplant in the country, which despite the high cost of procedures and medicines, is provided free of charge by the state.
Niurka Pérez Ginoris has had to overcome many difficulties during her career as a primary school teacher, but none as great as that which threatened the life of her pregnant daughter, Lisandra Linares, after she developed a potentially fatal kidney condition.
The solution: a mother to daughter kidney transplant which was performed on April 18 at the Arnaldo Milián Castro Hospital, and marked the resumption of living donor transplants, a procedure which hadn’t been performed in the central province of Villa Clara, for around four years.
It all began when Lisandra started to show abnormal signs of swelling during her pregnancy. After visiting the doctor she was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome and lupus, conditions which would require immediate attention in order to save both mother and child.
“Imagine, I ended up weighing more than 200 pounds due to the liquid my body was retaining, my whole life turned into an ordeal,” states the 23 year-old.
That was when doctors recommended the aforementioned operation, provided free of charge here in Cuba, but which can cost over $40,000 dollars in other parts of the world. Niurka immediately volunteered to donate the kidney her daughter so desperately needed.
“I didn’t hesitate for an instant. The doctors clearly explained to me every element of the procedure, its advantages, which I understood, and this made us feel sure that the operation would be a success,” recalls Niurka, who says that she doesn’t know how to repay the medical team for everything they have done for her daughter.
Today, the teacher from San Diego del Valle, in the municipality of Cifuentes, is counting down the days until she and her daughter make a full recovery, and she can return to the classroom, to repay in some small way everything that the medical team has done to give Lisandra another chance at life.
AN ENDURING WORK OF LOVE
The transplant, performed on April 18 in Villa Clara, takes the number of Cubans who have benefitted from operations of this kind to 5,500, according to Dr. Antonio Enamorado Casanova, head of the country’s national organ transplant program.
The specialist went on to note that every year an average of 185 transplants – with organs donated from living and deceased donors, the majority from the latter – are performed across the country’s nine centers dedicated to this activity, located in Havana, Villa Clara, Camagüey, Holguín and Santiago de Cuba, a big increase from the 108 or so performed five years ago.
This increase is due, in part, to the expansion of living donor options, which in addition to mothers, fathers, siblings and children, now also includes nieces and nephews, cousins, aunts and uncles; a change that has positively impacted survival rates, with patient’s now able to see their life extended by up to 80%, explained the nephrologist.
Another important statistic highlighted by Dr. Enamorado Casanova, is the increase in the organ donation rate over the last five years, rising from eight per one million inhabitants to 14, a figure which reflects a growing awareness among Cuban families of the importance of organ donation.
He also noted that there are currently over 3,300 patients in need of a transplant in the country, which despite the high cost of procedures and medicines, is provided free of charge by the state.
Regarding Villa Clara, Dr. Enamorado Casanova praised the work of the province’s multidisciplinary team of transplant specialists, who have performed 463 procedures on patients from this central region, a figure only surpassed by Havana, and also boast high survival rates.
In this regard, Dr. Milagros Hernández Fernández, regional transplant coordinator, noted that these results are the product of the hard work and commitment of the entire team, which includes various doctors and specialists across all three levels of the country’s healthcare system, and without whom such achievements would not have been possible.