It was a great pleasure for me and my wife to be part of the celebration of 3rd Foundation Day of Bhutan Kidney Foundation (BKF) at the Memorial Chorten in Thimphu yesterday afternoon. It was so kind of Mr. Tashi Namgay, the Founder and the Executive Director of BKF to have invited me to the event as a gesture of appreciation for whatever little support I could render during the initial developmental stages of the Foundation. Although I could not make significant contributions to BKF other than helping in preparing documents for the registration of the Foundation, I am really honored to be part of the event. When I received the invitation over the phone on Friday, I was told that it was a special request for me and this really made me feel that I should not miss it. Initially, I didn’t know that it was the Foundation Day celebration because the girl who had called me just told me that it was to offer butter-lamps for the wellbeing of people living with kidney-related diseases as well as for the salvation of those patients who have died of kidney failures. So, I and my wife went to Chorten at around 2:45 pm with a few kilograms of vegetable-shortening (dalda) and a few bunches of incense-sticks to offer our prayers.
When we reached there, we were received by Mr. Tashi Namgay and we were summoned to a small Lhakhang (temple-room) inside the Chorten where we were briefed on the actual significance of the day. More than 50 people (kidney-transplant recipients, donors and patients on dialysis) along with supporters like Dasho Benji and myself, and Board Members were in attendance. Mr. Tashi in his welcome note briefed the gathering on the history of Bhutan Kidney Foundation and how and why he initiated to set up the Foundation. He shared his own personal experiences of being a kidney-transplant recipient and said that this made him realize the need to have some kind of organization to help others with similar problems. As a result, the idea of registering Bhutan Kidney Foundation as a public-benefit Organization was conceived. “The registration of BKF was officially approved on 15th August 2012, which is exactly three years ago from today” he said. “We are deeply grateful to His Majesty the King and Her Majesty Gyaltsun, Ashi Jetsun Pema Wangchuck, Officials from His Majesty Secretariat, friends and well-wishers for supporting us in this noble journey” he added. “Three years have passed since we came into existence and we have been trying our best to reach out to as many kidney patients as possible to help within the limited human and financial resources of the Foundation” he told the gathering. “We are still in an infantile stage and we are sorry if we have failed to help some patients” he apologized. “But we will never give up our efforts to overcome any obstacle on our way” he concluded.
The main purpose of celebrating the day was to bring together different kidney patients: transplant recipients, donors and patients on dialysis and to give them a platform to share their concerns and experiences for each other’s benefit. But before that, the participants and guests were given the opportunity to light three butter-lamps each in the altar-room for the good health of all kidney-patients and donors as well as for the better birth of those who have died of kidney failures.
After offering butter-lamps, we got back to the Lhakhang and sat for a short prayer presided over by a Tulku, a kidney donor. Following the prayer, we went into the main temple to prostrate and offer prayers. The final part of the program was a forum outside the Chorten. We gathered on the front-lawn of the Chorten where we were served special tea and home-made sweets (Haluwa) prepared by the members of the Foundation. Following the refreshments was the interactive forum amongst the kidney-patients, donors and kidney-transplant recipients.
I was an observer. As the members exchanged their experiences, I was deeply touched by some of the stories the members shared. One of the donors said she had to donate one of her kidneys to her daughter after the family failed to get a donor. She said that her daughter had to remain on dialysis for about two years waiting for prospective donors. “But I even got cheated by a few individuals who came forward, took the money as an advance and never turned up” she told us. “So finally, I had to decide to donate my own” she said. Another donor shared that she donated her kidney to her husband and that both of them are still doing good as of now. Those who were on dialysis expressed that it has been very difficult to get donors and because of this, some of them have been on dialysis for more than two years waiting for donors. “Even our own relatives hesitate to donate for fear of death and health deterioration” one of the patients said.
After listening to the entire discussions, I was speechless. It’s really sad that the prevalence of kidney-related diseases has been very high in Bhutan. I was told that there are 96 patients who are currently on dialysis at JDW National Referral Hospital and because of the large number of patients and less number of dialysis machines, some of them get to undergo dialysis only once a week which must be at least thrice a week as per the international standard. This is very sad. The Bhutan Kidney Foundation, under the leadership of Mr. Tashi Namgay, has been conducting several advocacy programs in the country to educate the public on the importance of maintaining good physical health by adopting healthy lifestyles as well as how to help kidney patients who are in need of donors and other types of support. I feel we still need to have more public awareness to deal with these issues more effectively in the future. Since kidney failure is a silent disease, anyone of us can be a victim someday. May God bless all those who are affected by this silent disease and may they all lead a happy, normal life. May all our prayers offered yesterday be answered for the wellbeing of our fellow-Bhutanese currently suffering from such problems.