A kidney for Christmas — what better gift can there be?

The Yuletide season, during which men and women emphasise goodwill, caring, and love for each other — as promised in the birth of Jesus the Christ — will have special meaning this Christmas for Mr Christopher Seaga, adopted son of the late Prime Minister Edward Seaga.

Battling stage four, or end-stage kidney failure, which threatened his life, the younger Seaga is now on the list for kidney transplantation, thanks to an offer by an anonymous donor, which has brought him hope for a normal existence.

The good news was brought by Nationwide Radio‘s At Your Service host Mr Vernon Derby, on his blog Bark Di Trute, in which he also disclosed that: “Christopher has faced other challenges recently and at one point I felt that this could be it for him but he is a fighter. He is now my inspiration.”

It was also good to learn, as Mr Derby wrote, that “Christopher Seaga is now on a mission to help others. His story has highlighted the needs of many other Jamaicans.”

Since his plight was carried in the blog and in the Jamaica Observer on November 10, 2021, Chris and the Seaga family have asked that the attention be turned to the many Jamaicans who are battling chronic kidney diseases, some of whom can’t afford treatment, can’t get access to a dialysis machine, or need kidney transplantation but can’t find donors.

It is an almost futile wait for a kidney for the many Jamaicans who are at end-stage kidney failure in the face of the cultural reluctance of Jamaicans to remove the organs of their deceased loved ones before burial or cremation.

Although Jamaica has been doing transplantation using deceased kidney donors since the 1970s, the number of operations had been disappointingly low, according to Jamaica’s pre-eminent kidney disease specialist Professor Everard Barton. A mere five transplantations were done last year before the novel coronavirus pandemic hit and none since. There were three or four done in the previous year.

In the absence of kidney donations Jamaicans suffering from chronic or end-stage kidney disease must fork out up to $2 million a year for treatment (dialysis) to remove excess fluid and impurities from the bloodstream or face death.

Dr Barton said there are 3,000 people currently on dialysis at least twice per week, typically paying $7,500 per treatment at University Hospital of the West Indies, or between $10,000 and $17,000 per treatment at private institutions.

There is no charge for dialysis at public hospitals, but more often than not the acute shortage of dialysis machines leads to long waiting lists and people expiring before their names are reached.

Urging Jamaicans to change to healthy lifestyles to prevent unnecessary fatalities, Dr Barton disclosed findings from the Caribbean Renal Registry that as much as 60 per cent of people with chronic cases of diabetes and hypertension suffer kidney failure in seven English-speaking regional countries, including Jamaica.

Mr Derby pointed to what might be a glimmer of hope in an assurance by Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton that the matter of establishing an organ bank in Jamaica is under active consideration.

We urge the minister to do his best to make this possible. What a gift this would be for those waiting for organ transplantations.