Deepti Mahendru, 27, remembers the day she was diagnosed with dual kidney failure.
Three years ago, when she had gone for her medical tests after being diagnosed with tuberculosis, that revelation made her world come crashing down.
“Life was somewhat perfect before that. I first lost my job as an HR professional and my marriage was called off in a few months,” said Mahendru.
She has a big family, but no one offered to gift her a kidney. Mahendru is resigned to fate — she has written off transplant as an option.
“Two of my sisters are happily married, one is too young and my elder brother has his own family to take care of. My mother was my only hope but she too is a diabetic,” she said.
With faint hope of a kidney donor, her only hope for survival is dialysis.
According to estimates, 1.75 lakh new patients in India need either dialysis or transplant each year. Of these, barely 17,000 survive using dialysis.
Only 2.5 per cent patients with renal failure undergo a transplant. A majority of them depend on dialysis.
Adding to the problem is access. There are only 27 haemodialysis centres in Delhi — mostly in private hospitals. Haemodialysis involves drawing the patient’s blood out through a dialysis circuit containing artificial filters, which remove the waste products and return the blood to the body. The procedure, needed at least thrice a week, happens only in hospitals.
Long queues, an average wait of three hours (even in private hospitals), travelling time and fear of infections led her to switch to peritoneal dialysis a year ago.
The procedure involves injecting a dialysate, a chemical, into the patient’s abdomen through a catheter that is surgically inserted. The dialysate filters out waste products, that are drained out.
“This self–administered dialysis needs to be run three to four times a day. It took me a month to adjust but I’m comfortable now,” Mahendru said.
But is it safe? “Yes. It is safer than haemodialysis a majority of times,” said Dr S.K. Agarwal, professor and head, department of nephrology at the All India Institute for Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Dr. A.K. Bhalla, senior consultant (Nephrology), Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said: “Peritoneal dialysis is a very useful, especially for working patients. As the patient can do it himself, it offers a lot of flexibility and independence.”
However, patients like Mahendru don’t get jobs easily. “I’m fitter than before and I hope the market is more open to patients like me. We can deliver if given a chance,” she said.