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Make A Difference in The Lives of Kidney Patients

 For many kidney failure patients, the diagnosis signals a dramatic upheaval of their lives. Once an energetic and sociable person, Chew* now spends multiple times a week undergoing treatment at a National Kidney Foundation of Malaysia (NKF) dialysis centre. Her husband has also quit his job to be her caregiver; for a couple already living a life of economic hardship in the midst of a raging pandemic, this has been an extra blow to their income. 

The stark reality is that Chew’s story is not unique. Like her, more than 40,000 kidney patients currently undergo dialysis across the country. These patients have to spend 4 hours a day hooked up to a dialysis machine, three times a week — often for the rest of their lives. As such, many are unable to lead normal lives and struggle to gain regular employment.

“Malaysia has amongst the highest rates of kidney disease in the world, with over 7000 people diagnosed with kidney failure every year. While a kidney transplant is often seen as an ideal solution for someone with kidney failure, the limited amount of donor kidneys available means that for most patients, regular dialysis treatment is the only real available option,” said Dato' Dr Zaki Morad Mohamad Zaher, Chairman of NKF Malaysia.

For over 30 years, NKF has safeguarded the welfare of kidney patients by providing subsidised dialysis treatment, psychological support, as well as financial assistance and job placements. The non-profit also uses its funds to provide specialised dialysis training for healthcare workers, and carry out outreach and awareness-raising programmes on kidney disease. 

“Since we started dialysis operations in 1993, we have delivered compassionate and holistic care to over 6,000 patients of all backgrounds across the country. Throughout the turbulence of this pandemic, we continue to treat approximately 1,700 people at 28 dialysis centres nationwide,” said Dato' Dr Zaki Morad.

“As a non-profit, the majority of our work is reliant on the generosity of our donors. Every year, NKF needs to raise approximately RM25 million to subsidise the cost of dialysis treatments for its patients.”

Dato' Dr Zaki Morad added that the pandemic has meant that even more dialysis patients are in a vulnerable state, particular those from lower-income groups. “Despite our own limited resources, we were still compelled to go above and beyond our usual mandate to address the socio-economic and public health disruptions caused by the pandemic,” he said.

With rampant job loss and limited opportunities for self-employment, NKF in May 2020 pledged RM1 million from its own coffers to offer aid to dialysis patients in need of financial assistance. 

NKF also assisted the Ministry of Health (MOH) by donating medical supplies, including surgical gowns, personal protective equipment (PPE) and face masks. Being aware of the overwhelming number of patients seeking treatment in government hospitals during the pandemic, NKF loaned 58 haemodialysis machines and 6 units of the portable reverse osmosis (RO) water system to MOH, to ensure that kidney patients received proper treatment and care. In addition to this, NKF also took on more patient referrals from public hospitals nationwide, providing treatment to these patients on a complimentary basis. 

“We are thankful for all the support we have received so far — every donation received has meant the world to us. However, the pandemic has also affected us; many donors have pulled back their donations and it has been a real struggle to keep our operations running. We hope more people will support us in our mission to save lives,” said Dr Zaki Morad. 

Alan Thoo of Sunway Damansara Metro Lions Club, who has been a donor to NKF since 2009, urged more people to step forward to lend a helping hand. “During the start of the pandemic alone, we raised RM23,000 in donations to provide masks and PPE to NKF so that they could safely continue treating patients. You can make a real difference in the lives of these kidney patients in need — and NKF needs all the support it can get to continue its life-changing work,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ng Yoke Chan, Faculty Advisor of SMK Damansara Jaya’s Leo Club said the club’s long-term support of NKF has helped students learn how to reach out to others in need. “The decision to help NKF came about as I fully understand the suffering of a dialysis patient. In the near future, we look forward to see NKF being able to help more poor patients and a reduction in kidney failure patients in the long run,” she said.

To help kidney failure patients receive life-saving dialysis treatment, go to Donations can be made via bank transfer or e-wallet payments. Alternatively, members of the public can contact NKF at 03-7954 9048 to learn more about the organisation’s ongoing efforts.