Raising awareness through fun run

Tuanku Zara (in white shirt) greeting participants at the myKidney event. With her is UM vice-chancellor Abdul Rahim (left).

FATHER of two Mazlan Ali has a better appreciation of everything after undergoing a kidney transplant which he says gave him a second chance in life.

“My kidney failed all of a sudden but I was lucky and grateful that my brother was a matching and willing donor,” said the 41-year-old civil servant.

“I was an athlete before undergoing the transplant and I still enjoy the same activities now such as badminton and sepak takraw, although I am on permanent medication to ensure my body does not reject the new kidney.”

Mazlan is also a committee member of Green Ribbon Support Association, which serves as a support group for transplant recipients, donors and their family.

“It is a community-based organisation which provides support and care, as there are a lot of preparations and post-operative follow-ups before and after transplant surgery,” he said.

The association members were on hand to share their experience at myKidney and Fun Run 2019, which was launched by Raja Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Zara Salim at Kompleks Perdana Siswa, Universiti Malaya (UM).

Also present were Raja Datuk Seri Yong Sofia Sultan Azlan Shah, UM vice-chancellor Datuk Dr Abdul Rahim Hashim, Education Ministry Industry Relations Division director Prof Dr Arham Abdullah and Malaysian Armed Forces health director-general Lt Gen Datuk Pahlawan Dr Md Amin Muslan.

MyKidney aims to develop talent and strengthen knowledge in kidney transplantation in the hopes of increasing the number of such transplants in the country.

It is also working to establish a transplantation research centre network as the backbone of research and development activities in the area of kidney transplant, as well as enhance public education on chronic kidney diseases, kidney transplant and organ donation.

It was initiated by UM Health and Wellbeing Research Cluster deputy dean Assoc Prof Dr Ivy Chung when she was doing a six-month industrial attachment in the healthcare industry.

“MyKidney is an integrated corporate social responsibility (CSR) project under the Education Ministry’s CEO@Faculty Programme 2.0, established to organise efforts from interested stakeholders towards a concerted approach for patients with chronic kidney disease,” she said.

“The then CEO of the pharmaceutical company I was attached to suggested that I work on a CSR project related to kidney transplant to improve the transplant rate.”

Chung said the figures were sobering: some 37,000 patients were receiving dialysis in 2016, a 2.5-fold increase compared with the last decade; the number of kidney transplantation in Malaysia numbered only about 100 cases per annum for the past few years, and there were 25,000 kidney patients in Malaysia waiting to undergo kidney transplant procedures as of October 2018.

“Patients with end-stage renal disease need to undergo dialysis to have waste removed from their bloodstream but dialysis does not offer a permanent fix,” she said.

“A kidney transplant offers a more permanent solution, but requires constant medication and great care so the recipient can enjoy a quality life.”

Chung, who is attached to UM’s Department of Pharmacology, said myKidney served as a platform that allows various teaching hospitals, industry partners, ministries and relevant agencies to discuss and find solutions for this societal issue.

“There are many reasons that contribute to this situation (of long waiting list and low number of kidney transplant cases),” said Abdul Rahim.

“They include lack of organ donors – whether living or cadaveric donors – insufficient healthcare providers (surgeons) in kidney transplant and expensive medication.

“I hope that through awareness programmes such as myKidney, intervention can take place much earlier.

“It can be through inculcating the culture of healthy lifestyle, creating more specialists and encouraging more people to join organ donor programmes.”

Abdul Rahim said myKidney aimed to raise up to RM20mil for multiple objectives.

“They include providing medical support for living donor candidates as a way to increase the success rate for finding donors for patients, establishing a partnership with pharmaceutical companies to provide patients with discounted medication to ensure recovery, and providing more clinical opportunities to the next generation of surgeons,” he said.

“The funds will also be used to support some of the surgical costs for underprivileged patients who need a kidney transplant, as such surgeries costs at least RM60,000 today.”

Meanwhile, Abdul Rahim said all proceeds from the fun run would be channelled to a patient welfare account at University Malaya Medical Centre.

The myKidney event included a cooking demonstration by celebrity chef Datuk Fazley Yaakob and a health-oriented exhibition.

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