On the afternoon of Sabbath, 1 April, members of the Edmonton Adventist church and community visitors attended the Living Kidney Transplant Donor Community Awareness event. The event was a joint NHS initiative which is a project led by the Royal Free Hospital.
Edith Samambwa – South England Conference Health Ministries Director explaining the main aim of the afternoon's programme, said, "I wanted to ensure that there was increased awareness of the challenges of kidney transplant donation among African and African Caribbean communities. Additionally, I wanted to increase the likelihood of kidney donation in the stated communities."
Kidney disease and ethnicity
Presenting at the event was Cynthia Davis, a nurse with a speciality in nephrology. She pioneered spearheading work around kidney transplantation, focusing on the African and Caribbean historical experience. In her presentation she outlined vital data, including:
- Black Africans and Caribbeans have a higher prevalence of diabetes and are four times more likely to suffer from this condition than Caucasians.
- Diabetic nephropathy is the leading cause of end-stage kidney failure.
- Black patients wait longer for organs.
- They have increased waiting times due to the issues of tissue matching in cross-racial transplants.
- Greater need in the Black population for more organ donors.
Davis emphasised the need to continue building awareness to help mitigate organ donation barriers, including issues of trust, cultural and religious myths, misinformation, and access to relevant health information.
Faith and cultural perspectives
In her presentation captioned 'Ethnicity, Faith and Donation', BUC Director Sharon Platt-McDonald, shared the cultural disparities that impact and inhibit donors from Black communities.
Platt-McDonald has contributed to some NHS leaflets on Faith and Organ Donation. Two examples of these are the NHS Blood and Transplant leaflet captioned: Organ donation and religious beliefs:
and the National BAME Transplant Alliance (NBTA) publication on Christianity and organ donation: https://www.nbta-uk.org.uk/register/what-about-my-faith/christianity-and-organ-donation/
In both these documents, she said, "Identifying specific faith groups and their beliefs and practice around organ donation provides a basis for discussion. We must then share information on what faith groups believe in fostering a better understanding of cultural norms."
Platt-McDonald then raises the issue of cultural relevance by saying, "Disseminating more widely information on the cultural risk factors for kidney disease keeps people informed, assists in breaking barriers and engendering hope as people improve health choices which will positively impact their life."
Undoubtedly, the most impactful part of the session was hearing from the five recipients who had received the life-saving organs that transformed their lives, some with repeated episodes of transplantation. Sharing their traumatic journeys of kidney failure (one of them with liver failure), invasive treatments to keep them alive, and the anxious wait for a donor, these precious individuals captivated the audience as they told their deeply moving testimonials. Their stories from African Caribbean backgrounds emphasised the prevalence of kidney disease and vulnerabilities in these people groups.
Recipients sharing their journey were: N'ii Plange MBE Chairperson of RFKPA (Royal Free Kidney Patient Association); Funmi Lawal, London Kidney Patient Representative; Andy Peynado, Walthamstow Seventh-day Adventist church; Douglas Davis, Luton Seventh-day Adventist church, and Makada Brown-Dako.
Rekha Parekh, an LKTD outreach worker, gave an overview of the Living Kidney Transplant Donor (LKTD) project and shared the experiences of donors and recipients in the Asian community and some of the transferable lessons that Black communities can embrace.
Whole health awareness
A key message from the varied speakers was the importance of maintaining one's health. The emphasis resulted from commencing a screening session undertaken by the Edmonton Health Ministries team offering health checks to attendees. Several individuals were grateful and availed themselves of this crucial opportunity to ascertain their well-being.
In the ensuing presentations, the various speakers emphasised the prevention of illness by highlighting the importance of good blood pressure maintenance and managing blood glucose and cholesterol levels to preserve kidney health. They also underlined other lifestyle choices, such as a wholesome, balanced diet, exercise, adequate hydration, stress management and avoidance of unhealthy lifestyle habits that can predispose a person to kidney disease.
For more information on kidney health, visit: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/sixstepshealthprimer
Reflecting on the numerous comments about the programme, Samambwa concluded: "The responses have been very positive and showed that it was a much-needed event."
She indicated plans for the future: "It is important to run more community awareness events in the Adventist Church as well as other Christian churches with predominantly Black congregations." She finished by saying, "this is what we are planning to do in the future."