JANUARY 16, 2017 – first successfully completed kidney transplant in Antigua and Barbuda was performed at the Mount St John Medical Centre.
The eight-hour, 2-part procedure was performed by a 14-member team comprising four surgeons, two anaesthetists and eight specialist nurses. Included in the team were the following from the MSJMC/Antigua and Barbuda:
*Dr Ian Thomas, nephrologist – project visioner and coordinator, leading the team for pre-surgery preparations for the patients and post-op recovery processes.
*Dr Dwayne Thwaites and Dr. Steve Richards -surgeons
*Dr Ogumbiye and Dr Ward – anesthesiologists
*Nurse D. Connor and Nurse Petal Adams – surgical scrub
*Nurse Edwards – Supervising Sister (Surgery)
The surgery team was supported by many technicians, nurses, and doctors from MSJMC in the pre- and post-operations phases. There was also significant input by the Ministry of Health and the Medical Benefits Scheme in the development and maintenance of the program.
Commenting on the memorable occasion at the time, Molwyn Joseph the Minister with responsibility for Health and the Environment, noted that the date (January 16) was already a historic day for the nation. “On this day, Antigua Trades and Labour Union was formed, and that organisation preceded all political trade union bodies ever formed in this country and it was singularly responsible for the transformation of the lives of our people. It is fitting therefore that another transformative event on this day, 78 (Jan 16, 2017) years later in the lives of the people of Antigua and Barbuda. Today, another historical accomplishment occurred, as the Mount St John Medical Centre, succeeded in completing the first kidney transplant in our country.”
Dr Ian Thomas shared some reflections today. “It was quite an achievement. There were some anxious moments. The project was a work in progress for quite some time. The success of the operations built the confidence in the capabilities of local health professionals and eliminated concerns that our team were not up to the task. We are not a wealthy country with a plethora of specialists, but with the assistance of the international team we executed well.”
Dr Thomas indicated that for those who benefitted from the procedure it was a life changing experience, an open door to an improved quality of life. Noteworthy too is that “the persons that were transplanted were generally not of significant means.”
Dr Dwayne Thwaites shared today January 16, 2021 that he is generally pleased with the progress the nation continues to make in the provision of health care for the residents of Antigua and Barbuda and the efforts from the highest level to keep pushing for specialist services such as kidney transplants. He stated two challenges “the financial burden associated with maintaining the program and difficulties finding matches among the local community (family members and associates) to facilitate the procedures.”
While not the first patient, former MP Teco Lake shared the benefits to him of having the important kidney transplant “at home”. He highlighted the “absolute advantage of taking care of our medical needs domestically and the special comfort of having familiar doctors as part of your care team. They were available to take calls, give advice. I could run into their offices on a moment’s notice.”
Dr Thomas, Dr Thwaites, and Teco Lake all agree on the importance of donors to the continued viability of the local program. Dr. Thomas shared that “we should have been able to complete more transplants, but not as many persons have come forward as donors and of those who have there has been compatibility or medical challenges.” Dr Thwaites opined that there needs to be more local involvement through the availability of a pool of donors. Teco expressed his gratitude to his donor and used the opportunity to encourage more persons to step forward to ‘donate to a kidney patient, who will have restoration of normal function resulting in a healthy lifestyle for all”.
Dr Thomas looking ahead is looking forward to the opportunity to work more closely with neighbouring islands to facilitate kidney transplants for their citizens/residents.