When two of his close friends died of kidney failure a few years ago, Nicholas Mills thought that would have been his closest encounter with the renal disease.
The auto mechanic, who hails from Brown’s Town in St Ann, had no clue his own frailty would have been tested severely. Time churned out an unpleasant reality.
When he spoke recently with The Jamaica Beacon, the youngster was bedridden at the University Hospital of the West Indies, struggling to keep hope alive.
His two kidneys have been damaged, resulting in pain, joblessness, often swollen legs, as well as huge dialysis bills.
“Most times I don’t even think about it,” Mills said. “I just tell myself that it happens already; I have to just take it easy although it’s difficult.”
The 34-year-old, whose father died of lupus less than a year ago, is optimistic that he will recover from the potentially deadly disease.
“I feel like I could recover if I get the right treatment as often as I should.”
Getting treatment at public hospitals in Jamaica, through what is known as dialysis machines, takes a lot of time and money.
People sometimes are left to die while they wait their turn to use one of the few dialysis machines available, according to the Diabetes Association of Jamaica. It noted that kidney dialysis is a very expensive procedure that involves the use of hundreds of gallon of water and kilowatt-hours of electricity to operate the machines. Most of the supportive materials and equipment used are also disposable (one-time use only).
Mills, who was told to join the long line of patients waiting to access one of the dialysis machines at public hospitals, said he faced virtually unbearable pain and swelling.
He eventually sought treatment at a private medical facility in St Ann, where he is required to pay roughly $10,000 each time he accesses the machine.
The dialysis machine assists with, among other things, blood flow and removal of unwanted waste products from the blood – functions a healthy kidney would perform.
A damaged kidney no longer functions, and so will cause one to die if one doesn’t access dialysis treatment.
“I should be doing dialysis twice per week,” Mills noted. “Financial-wise, I can only do it once per week – sometimes twice per month. As a result of that, my feet swell – both legs.”
“It is kinda hard because more time it is my mother Charmaine Carr alone. If she doesn’t have the money to send me [for private treatment], I just stay home and wait until she can afford it,” Mills further said, adding that sometimes he gets help from Vas Auto in Brown’s Town, Councillor for the Brown’s Town Division Kim Brown Lawrence, and healthcare worker Ansel Robb.
Mills, who is an auto mechanic, said some of his long-time customers sometimes take their vehicles to his home to be repaired. But, as a result of not getting regular treatment, he falls ill as soon as he starts the job.
“More time I can’t do the work because, when I bend down, the short-of-breath starts and I have to stop,” added the frustrated father of a two-year-old girl, Nickalya.
He told The Jamaica Beacon that his medical situation worsened in recent months, forcing him to spend weeks in hospitals.
“Every month since July I have been in hospital,” he said.
Mills recently ended up in the University Hospital of the West Indies where he will be billed for services provided.
His intention, however, is to acquire a catheter, which is a flexible tube inserted into the body to remove fluid. Mills said the catheter costs $30,000 and he isn’t sure how much it will cost him to have it inserted.
The St Ann resident further stated that, in retrospect, the major regret he harbours regarding his illness is that he ignored the early warning signs.
“I felt the symptoms of the high blood pressure for about two to three weeks, but I didn’t check it out. As you know, on a whole, man nuh love goh doctor. So I didn’t go to the doctor,” he explained.
Mills was watching a football match at Addison Park in his hometown on November 11, 2015 when he got a rude awakening – extreme dizziness and sudden darkness. “I couldn’t see anywhere on the ball field,” he said.
“By the time I reached the doctor, it was late. My two kidneys got damaged already. I was admitted to hospital due to high blood pressure; nearly 300 the pressure had reached.”
The reason Mills considers himself late in seeking treatment is based on the fact that kidney failure results from diabetes or high blood pressure. If he had detected and treated his high blood pressure earlier, he could have prevented or slowed down the onset of the kidney disease.
Mills, who lamented having to learn the hard way, wants people to avoid making a similar error.
“Every time I go to do dialysis, I meet two or three new persons. It seems kidney problem is about to take over the country… I have two friends who died from kidney failure three to four years ago – one was my close close neighbour.”
“I want to encourage people to just get their medical check ups on time; that is very important,” the strong-willed St Ann native further advised.