A world already darkened by the COVID-19 terror is looking much darker for a 10-year-old boy whose father has been too frail to cater for the family since he was diagnosed in Ghana with a chronic kidney disease in 2016.
It may be hard to believe, but it is true, that his ailing 43-year-old father, Abubakari Sumaila, coughs up Gh¢900 (156 United States dollars) every week to cover the cost of haemodialysis— a medical process of purifying the blood of a person whose kidneys are not working normally— at the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH) where his condition is being routinely managed.
Although in poor health, he travels a distance of 160 kilometres three times every week from his home in a slum in the Upper East regional capital, Bolgatanga, to the TTH in the Northern regional capital, Tamale, just to stay alive.
A letter written by the Head of the TTH’s Medical Social Work Unit, Alhaji Braimah Saaka, says he also needs to get “a permanent vascular access” for him to receive dialysis in Accra or Kumasi to support the haemodialysis he is already having at the TTH. That one comes at a cost of Gh¢1,500 per month.
The ultimate solution to the condition, according to the TTH, is kidney transplantation which the letter, dated July 22, 2020, says is “mainly done outside Ghana” at a cost estimated between 35,000 and 45,000 United States dollars. That is between Gh¢202,049 and Gh¢317,506.
Abubakari and his relatives have drained all their resources to meet the costs of his haemodialysis in the last four years. For everybody around him, having nowhere to turn at this point feels like a death-sentence notice only public sympathy can repeal. The dreadful prospect of prematurely losing a father in addition— at a time the world’s changing face is calling for protective cover at home— is eating away at his only child.
“I have friends at school and at home. Sometimes, we talk about what we want to be in the future as we play together. I want to be a banker. But my father is not strong because of his condition. I have been sad, very sad, about it. A lot of things would be affected in my life if he is not around. I’m the only child. I love him. That is why I am appealing to the public to help him,” his son, Saifudeen Tiyumba Sumaila, told Starr News on Wednesday.
My business is gone— Ailing Sumaila
Sumaila told Starr News he had rashes on his body in 2015 before the kidney condition developed. He said he later visited a health facility in the Talensi District where he was told his blood pressure was “too high” and was referred to the Upper East Regional Hospital.
“I had a blurred vision as I was riding back home. I couldn’t see well. I told my brother about it and we went to the hospital. We saw an eye specialist. That is where I was told that I had high blood pressure. I started going to Amiah Hospital for treatment. It was from there they told me that my kidney had started to have problems. That was 2015. So, they referred me to the Tamale Teaching Hospital. When I went there, they gave me medications for a while. One day, I was in Bolgatanga here when one evening I couldn’t sleep. I was feeling numbness in my body. When people touched me, I didn’t feel it.
“I was admitted for two days at Amiah Hospital. From there they referred me to TTH again. That is where they said they had to put me on dialysis. I started going for dialysis three times every week. They fixed a catheter on me. The catheter alone cost me Gh¢1,200. Each dialysis costs me Gh¢300 and it is done three times a week. That is Gh¢900 every week. I go on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays for the dialysis. For four years I have paid Gh¢900 cedis every week. The hospital told me the solution to my problem was kidney transplant and that it would be done in India,” he said, looking frail.
Asked how he had been getting the money to meet the weekly costs of the haemodialysis at the TTH, he answered: “I depend on people. I’m a designer. I sew smocks. All my business is gone. Right now, I’m so weak that lifting an item is a problem for me. I depend on people. I have a wife. She sells garri at the market.”