Hospital cares for patients with acute and chronic kidney disease | Western Cape Government


Hospital cares for patients with acute and chronic kidney disease

6 September 2023

Hospital cares for patients with acute and chronic kidney disease in a friendly and collaborative environment.

If diagnosed early, chronic kidney failure in children can be treated as the paediatric nephrologists at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital have shown in their treatment of Rebekah Africa (4), a patient with rare kidney disease. After years of treatment to slow the decline of her kidney function, she is on the road to recovery and looks forward to eating her favourite foods and dancing again.

4 – 8 September is observed as National Kidney Awareness Week which aims to educate and drive awareness for kidney health amongst adults and children. The kidneys play a major role in the body – one of the main functions being to remove waste and excess fluid from the body which is needed to create and maintain a stable balance of chemicals within the body.

Professor Mignon McCulloch, Head of the Renal and Organ Transplant clinical unit at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH) says: “Acute kidney failure is more common than chronic kidney failure amongst children. This means that children can experience a rapid loss of kidney function due to periods of untreated diarrhoea, vomiting and urinary tract infections.”

Both Acute Kidney failure and Chronic Kidney failure require treatment using medication and dialysis, both treatments support healthy organ function such as the removal of waste from the blood while controlling blood pressure and producing red blood cells.

In the last ten years, RCWMCH has provided dialysis treatment for approximately 400 children (30 – 40 per year). For patients with end-stage kidney failure, dialysis is merely a bridge to a kidney transplant, but the waiting time can be long if there is no family kidney available.

RCWMCH, a leading specialist tertiary healthcare provider for children across Africa, has performed more kidney transplants in the last two years than any other facility across the country. 

Rebekah was born with Congenital Nephrotic Syndrome, a condition that is formed within the first three months of life and is characterised by high levels of protein in the urine and body swelling.

Justin Africa, Rebekah’s father recalls first hearing the news that his daughter was born with a condition and would need immediate treatment, “it's never something as parents that you want for any of your kids and to hear that this is the road our eldest, our firstborn had to walk. Luckily, we've been blessed with such a strong and beautiful little girl who is just like a soldier. During all her hospital visits, some of which had us (parents) in tears, we were lucky enough to be able to draw strength from Rebekah.”

Justin Africa was identified as a possible donor for his daughter who had been through countless tests, and eight major surgeries, including two nephrectomies (removal of kidneys), all before the age of five.

Professor McCulloch recalls, “Her resilience and courage to cope with any medical treatment as well as her parent’s love for and commitment to her is truly admirable.”

When asked how he felt about being a match for his daughter, Justin says: “I was happy that I was able to give my daughter a better chance at life. A life with the possibility of no more plastic objects sticking out of her. All I could think of was the quality of life that my kidney could offer her.”

RCWMCH is unique as doctors can perform dialysis from birth including premature babies, and children up to the age of 13.

“We work as a multidisciplinary team who are all well trained in treating children with kidney conditions. Very few centres in the country perform children’s kidney transplants due to its complexity,” says Professor McCulloch.

The facility, known as a leading training institution across Africa, has also led the way in developing renal services in Africa by training 40 fellows in paediatric nephrology who have returned home and have developed their own children’s kidney centres in their home countries.”

The hospital continues to treat children in need as one of the only paediatric nephrology units in the country that manages both state and private paediatric dialysis and transplant patients in one unit.