Bridge of Life Foundation making massive impact on kidney disease in Jamaica
Hundreds of Jamaicans living with kidney disease have benefited from the work of the Bridge of Life Foundation since they began their missions to Jamaica in 2011. The team of doctors consisting of local and overseas-based volunteers is currently performing arteriovenous (AV) fistula surgeries at the St Joseph's, University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), and St Ann's Bay hospitals.
The Bridge of Life partnership was initiated by Professor Everard Barton, founder and director of Nephrology Institute of the Caribbean, and the UHWI Renal Foundation, and has already contributed $60.3 million in equipment and service in over six missions to the island.
Head of the Bridge of Life Foundation's surgical team, Dr William Jennings, outlined that AV fistulas are the gold standard for haemodialysis treatment.
"A fistula used for haemodialysis is a direct connection of an artery to a vein. Once the fistula is created it becomes a natural part of the body. Once it properly matures, it provides access with great blood flow that can last much longer than other treatment options. Compared to the use of grafts and catheters, fistulas have a lower morbidity and mortality rate, lowest rates of thrombosis and lowest rates of infection," explained Dr Jennings.
Jennings also mentioned that his native United States in 2002 was behind Jamaica in AV fistula surgeries, as only 20 per cent of patients received fistulas. Through a Fistula First campaign, the US was able to raise this number to 62 per cent by 2016.
In January 2014, Jamaica reported at the Annual International Conference on Nephrology and Hypertension that Jamaica recorded 73 per cent of Vascular Access from AV fistulas, which included data on patients from the 2012 and 2013 Bridge of Life surgical missions. Since then, there has been nearly 200 new AV fistulas surgically installed by the Bridge of Life team.
Sara Hendren, senior director for programmes at the Bridge of Life Foundation, stressed that while the dollar impact was impressive, it was the health of the people the foundation serves that was paramount.
"While the dollar impact on Jamaica is great, the Bridge of Life Foundation is more proud of the lives we impact. We have never been an organisation that comes in, does work and leave; we will come back, and continue coming back until there is a sustained level of continued improvement for health care. Globally, our organisation has impacted over 77,000 lives and we will continue to work with Jamaica and the Ministry of Health, the hospitals and our other partners locally to provide the best care we can, however we can," said Hendren.
Since the inception of the partnership, the Bridge of Life Foundation has done upgrades, including the installation of a dialysis machines in the Dialysis Units of UHWI, St Joseph's and Mandeville Regional hospitals.
HUNDREDS OF SURGERIES
The Bridge of Life team of medical doctors, which also comprises volunteer local physicians, also makes contributions to the Jamaica Kidney Kids Foundation and has performed hundreds of arteriovenous (AV) fistula surgeries islandwide.
Kenton Davis, a patient of UHWI's Dialysis Unit and one of the first surgical patients of the Bridge of Life Mission, spoke of the effort of the team and his own experience.
"I was one of the first patients to be touched by the magic of this foundation, and I am here today due to their kindness and expertise, and for that words cannot explain how thankful I am. Some of these doctors and surgeons, like Dr Jennings, were retired from service and they have volunteered their time to come here and help people like myself, when they could be enjoying their retirement on a golf course somewhere. They work long hours and I have seen at first hand the impact of what they do, as I am a living testament to that," said Davis.
The Bridge of Life Foundation is a non-profit organisation established under the DaVita Village Trust in 2006. Operating via the DaVita Medical Missions initiative as a mechanism to improve kidney care and dialysis treatment in underserved areas of the world, the foundation has now expanded to include screening, prevention and primary care services.
The Bridge of Life Foundation's team of doctors and caregivers were awarded for their outstanding service, in recognition of their relentless effort in providing quality care to kidney disease patients across the island, at a special dinner at the Knutsford Court Hotel, St Andrew, on Sunday, as they move towards the end of their sixth mission to Jamaica.