BY JACOB BRIGHT
Medical practitioners have told The Point that the assumption by a section of Nigerians that kidney disease, or more specifically, kidney failure is an ailment associated with Nigerian celebrities, is unfounded and baseless.
According to experts, kidney disease is an ailment that may be caused by certain “reckless” lifestyles like excessive drinking and smoking, and most patients could go many days without realising their health status because they (patients)are usually asymptomatic or don’t show any tell-tale signs of their illness.
Some Nigerian celebrities had been diagnosed with the deadly disease and generated a lot of social media frenzy after they came out to disclose their medical condition and solicited funds from Nigerians and their fans for treatment locally or abroad. Following such traumatizing news break, some Nigerians developed a perception, albeit wrongly, that kidney failure was synonymous with Nigerian celebrities.
Celebrities who died of kidney failure and its complications include veteran radio presenters, Nollywood actors, singer-songwriters and record producers and popular comedienne to mention a few.
Though some other celebrities had escaped the clutches of what doctors say is a terminal disease, they have remained a shadow of their former selves. A Nollywood actor escaped death from renal failure in 2016 after miraculously surviving an advanced stage of kidney disease. But the sad case repeated itself three years later.
Countering the view that kidney failure was a celebrity disease, a medical practitioner, Sunday Shotiloye, said there was no truth in the perception people hold about the disease afflicting a particular set or group of people. According to him, kidney or renal failure is “a disease of self-neglect” which reflects wrong choices with lifestyle.
“I won’t call it a celebrity disease. I would call it a disease of self-neglect. Self-neglect in the sense that the things you should not do, like smoking and drinking, you do, and the things you should do in terms of checking your health status, you don’t bother about them. You feel that as long as you sleep and wake up, everything is well. It is when it is too late that you realise that something is going on,” he said.
Shotiloye harped on the importance of not taking “performance-enhancing” drugs, stating that such drugs were a license to developing kidney diseases. He also said that having periodic medical checkups, where the kidneys are carefully examined, should be top on an individual’s priority list.
“If somebody is undergoing periodic medical checkups and is not taking all those enhancing drugs, his health will be fine. Also, if one is checking his health status regularly, checking the condition of the kidney, checking the blood pressure, checking excretion balance and all that, anything going badly will be discovered on time,” he stated.
“I won’t call it a celebrity disease. I would call it a disease of self-neglect. Self-neglect in the sense that the things you should not do, like smoking and drinking, you do, and the things you should do in terms of checking your health status, you don’t bother about them”
Continuing, he said that one common feature with most of the celebrities was that they stressed themselves a lot. He observed that most celebrities were in the habit of sleeping very late at night and waking very early in the morning. Not only that, Shotiloye said they also ate at odd hours, which he said was what he meant by “self-neglect.”
“Self-neglect is doing things that make you feel that you are the owner of your body and can use it anyhow. Unfortunately, by the time the body breaks down, it may be too late then,” he added.
Shotiloye told our correspondent that Nigerian celebrities usually put a lot of pressure on themselves just to remain relevant. He stated that celebrities also have their own “idols” whom they want to be like and compared with by their fans.
To achieve these aims, the Ogun State native said that performance-enhancing drugs have become their go-to solution. According to Shotiloye, the drugs may have the ability to provide short-term and immediate satisfaction, the long-term effects and consequences, however, are deadly. He declared that when the kidneys are abused and assaulted, they would likely fail.
“What one eats, what one drinks matters. Some of these drugs that people take to enhance their performance actually destroy the body more than help the body. They give you the immediate response that you need, but what will be the long-term effect? And these are the same people that will not have the time to go and check their health status.
“All they are focusing on is on their performance. They think that once they attain a level, they must remain at that level. And yes, celebrities also want to emulate some other people. They have their own ‘idols’ they look unto and they want people to see them as somebody like that other person, instead of being themselves.
“But by the time you have ‘flogged’ the kidney in so many ways, your blood pressure is high, and you’re taking drugs, you’re abusing and assaulting the kidney and liver. At the end of the day, those things (liver and kidney)may fail.”
On the symptoms associated with kidney infections, he said they don’t usually appear, and except there was an examination, victims may appear asymptomatic.
“Most of these diseases that are dangerous, they don’t show anything early. By the time they begin to show signs, its already too late,” he said.
Narrating further, he said someone who has hypertension may not know about his condition except he checked his blood pressure. According to him, if an individual had high blood pressure, it could affect the blood supply to the kidney, and if the kidney was not adequately and effectively supplied with blood, the kidneys may begin to fail.
Shotiloye insisted that only a proper kidney disease examination could determine the health status of a patient suspected to have the disease. He faulted some of the common tests used for the examination, pointing out that they only give a diagnosis after more than half of the kidney functions may have been destroyed.
“Unfortunately, the common examinations that are done on the kidney would not pick it up until more than 60 percent of the functions of the kidney were lost. By the time you discover that something is wrong, you may have lost more than half of the functions of that kidney,” he said.
On the relationship between the liver and kidney, Shotiloye explained in layman’s terms that the liver was the “detoxification centre” of the body. In his analysis, the liver renders all the dangerous substances ingested by the body harmless, and the kidney in turn gets rid of them from the body.
“If the kidney is not getting rid of them, they accumulate in the body and the accumulation of those dangerous things can affect any organ in the body, and by the time it gets to a level, it affects the general health of the person,” he submitted.
Prevention is better than cure
On the cure for renal failure, Shotiloye said it is better prevented than go into a cure. According to him, management of renal failure is usually for life. His words: “Even the ones that go for a kidney transplant, that one is like a temporary measure, too, because the transplanted kidney cannot function for the same length of time that your original kidneys would have done.”
Shotiloye warned that celebrities and everyone else must begin to learn how to take care of their kidneys to prevent a situation where they sought kidneys from others. “Transplanted kidneys will not function exactly like the normal kidneys of that person. It will function alright, a bit better than the damaged kidney that the person removed. However, if the person didn’t damage his own kidney in the first place, he wouldn’t need a transplant,” he said.
Shedding more light, he said transplanted kidneys required more care and stressed the need to prevent the disease. In his words, “By taking care of your kidney, you won’t even need a transplant in the first place. That is why prevention is the best method of taking care of your kidneys, not treatment, which is always a kind of palliative, that is, keeping the person comfortable until the last day.”
Sharing his thoughts on the rise in kidney failures, a consultant at the Alimosho General Hospital, Lagos, Olatunji Ogungbe, said kidney failure is a “general disease” and the perception of kidney failure as a celebrity disease is laughable.
Ogungbe noted that “the problem with our celebrities is their way of life that contradicts the good health of the kidneys.” Like Shotiloye, he was of the view that “drinking and smoking all sort of things” is responsible for some of them (celebrities) developing kidney failures.
Ogungbe fingered diabetes mellitus as a cause of renal failures, stating that most celebrities are ignorant about their diabetes status.
“A diabetes mellitus disease that is not properly taken care of, with time, will complicate the kidney functions. Most celebrities don’t even know they have diabetes until when the kidney is affected, or until a part of their body is affected, probably their sight or even their manhood, if it’s a man,” he posited.
Ogungbe added that though renal failure is a general disease in the country, celebrities were usually marked out because of their status and popularity, making their perceived link to the disease to seem more obvious and relatable.
Asked about any telltale signs of kidney diseases, he pointed out that most patients may not observe any symptoms on time. Such patients when questioned in retrospect by a healthcare worker would “now agree with you that they’ve been having decreased urinary output.”
“Those that had probably been passing urine regularly before now, by the time kidney disease happens, they’re passing less urine and less by-product, and these by-products will be retained in the body and start causing as many problems as possible,” he said.
He listed “generalised body swelling” as a symptom of the disease which, as time went on, may affect the brain. He described this stage as the terminal point of the disease. Other symptoms are difficulty breathing and heart issues where a patient’s heart may not be beating properly the way it should because of by-products like potassium, urea and creatinine, in the body, which are toxic; and can destroy body cells.
Whether kidney diseases could be cured, Ogunbe said, “it depended on what was responsible as per the symptoms.” According to him, it can be treated, but its cure depended on what was causing it.
“There are some kidney diseases that can be temporal like an “infective process,” those ones can be treated. They are all treatable, but whether they are curable depends on the stage the disease was. If it’s at the end stage, there’s little we can do than to just continue dialysis, giving supportive treatments and hopefully the patient can do well,” he concluded.