Hundreds of people marked World Kidney Day on the Sea Point Promenade last week.
The annual event is organised by the Cape Kidney Association to raise awareness of kidney-related illnesses.
The day was a significant one for Colleen Webb-Burgess, who lost her only son, Warren, to kidney disease last year.
One of his favourite things to do, says Ms Webb-Burgess, was taking a stroll on the Sea Point Promenade.
She has started a foundation in his name to raise awareness, especially in disadvantaged communities.
“My son was diagnosed two years ago, at age 34. He had a kidney transplant last year, but sadly due to complications, passed away six months later. I wanted to start this foundation to work with disadvantaged communities because there is very little awareness about kidney failure.”
This, says Ms Webb-Burgess, was the main motivation for starting the Warren Michael Foundation. “Your whole life changes if you are diagnosed.”
She adds that she hopes to work with the Cape Kidney Association to raise awareness.
Molly Fabe, executive director of the Cape Kidney Association, says events like these are extremely important.
Cape Kidney Association hosted its first event seven years ago on World Kidney Day in the Green Point Urban Park.
According to Ms Fabe, more than 500 people registered to take part in this year’s event, the theme of which was Kidney Disease and Obesity Healthy Lifestyle for Healthy Kidneys.
“The event itself originates from
Belgium. But there are events that take place all over the world. The first time we had it, we had 150 people. It just spiralled after that.”
Ms Fabe said that World Kidney Day falls on the second Thursday of March every year. “It’s been an amazing event because it’s just grown and grown. It’s all about creating awareness, people don’t understand the function of the kidney and how important it is. Your kidneys are the filters of your body.”
She added that the two main factors which could cause kidney failure were high blood pressure and diabetes. “More and more people are starting to become aware of this. Never think that it cannot affect you. It affects anybody and everybody and it is a silent killer.”
The Cape Kidney Association supports 150 kidney patients who are at provincial hospitals.
She stressed there needs to be more awareness and education around the function of kidneys, particularly in schools.
One of the volunteers at the event, Lauren van Turha, said she was 14 when she was diagnosed with kidney failure.
“I just started swelling and at school I had to face mockery. I saw the GP and he referred me to a state hospital.”
She was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome and she began treatment with steroids. “I had treatment but then eight years ago it was discovered that the function of my kidneys was deteriorating.
“In 2009, my kidneys were only functioning at five percent. My kidneys just failed and they said I needed to either do dialysis or get a donor.”
She said that the person with her at the time of diagnosis was her mother, who offered one of her kidneys. She was a match and they were able to complete the kidney transplant. “She was my match and three months later the operation was done.
“Here I am standing as normal as can be with my mom’s kidney. I was very blessed when I found out that my mom was a match and that made the process easier.”
She said being involved with the Cape Kidney Association was her way of giving back after getting a second chance at life.
For more information on kidney-related illnesses and the symptoms to look out for, visit the Cape Kidney Association’s website at https://capekidney.org