Hundreds of Jamaicans living with kidney disease have benefited from the work of the Bridge of Life Foundation since they began their missions to Jamaica in 2011. The team of doctors consisting of local and overseas-based volunteers is currently performing Arteriovenous (AV) Fistula surgeries at the St. Joseph’s, UHWI, and St. Ann’s Bay Hospitals.
The Bridge of Life partnership was initiated by Professor Everard Barton, Founder and Director Nephrology Institute of the Caribbean and the UHWI Renal Foundation, and has already contributed JMD $60.3 Million in equipment and service over 6 missions to the island. The Bridge of Life team of doctors were honoured on Sunday, September 11, at the Knutsford Court Hotel, in recognition of their relentless effort in providing quality care to kidney disease patients across the island.
Head of the Bridge of Life Foundation’s Surgical Team, Dr. William Jennings outlined that AV Fistulas are the gold standard for hemodialysis treatment.
“A fistula used for hemodialysis is a direct connection of an artery to a vein. Once the fistula is created it becomes a natural part of the body. Once it properly matures, it provides access with great blood flow that can last much longer than other treatment options. Compared to the use of Grafts and Catheters Fistulas have a lower morbidity and mortality rate, lowest rates of thrombosis and lowest rates of infection,” explained Dr. Jennings.
Jennings also mentioned his native United States of America in 2002 was behind Jamaica in AV Fistula surgeries as only 20% of patients received Fistulas. Through a Fistula First campaign the US was able to raise this number to 62% by 2016. In January 2014 Jamaica reported at the Annual International Conference on Nephrology and Hypertension that Jamaica recorded 73% of Vascular Access from AV Fistulas which included data on patients from the 2012 and 2013 Bridge of Life surgical missions. Since then there has been nearly 200 new AV Fistulas surgically installed by the Bridge of Life team.
Sara Hendren, Senior Director for Programmes at the Bridge of Life Foundation stressed that while the dollar impact was impressive it was the health of the people the foundations serves that is paramount.
“While the dollar impact on Jamaica is great the Bridge of Life Foundation is more proud of the lives we impact. We have never been an organization that comes in does work and leave; we will come back, and continue coming back until there is a sustained level of continued improvement for health care. Globally our organization has impacted over 77,000 lives and we will continue to work with Jamaica and the Ministry of Health, the Hospitals, and our other partners locally to provide the best care we can however we can,” said Hendren.
Since the inception of the partnership, the Bridge of Life Foundation has done upgrades including the installation of a dialysis machine in the Dialysis Units of the University Hospital of the West Indies, St. Joseph’s and Mandeville Regional Hospitals. The Bridge Of Life team of medical doctors, which also comprises of volunteer local physicians, also makes contributions to the Jamaica Kidney Kids Foundation and has performed hundreds of Arteriovenous (AV) Fistula surgeries island-wide.
Kenton Davis, a patient of the University Hospital of the West Indies’ Dialysis Unit and one of the first surgical patients of the Bridge of Life Mission spoke of the effort of the team and his own experience.
“I was one of the first patients to be touched by the magic of this foundation and I am here today due to their kindness and expertise and for that words cannot explain how thankful I am. Some of these doctors and surgeons, like Dr. Jennings were retired from service and they have volunteered their time to come here and help people like myself when they could be enjoying their retirement on a golf course somewhere. They work long hours and I have seen first-hand the impact of what they do as I am a living testament to that,” said Davis.
The Bridge of Life Foundation is a non-profit organization established under the DaVita Village Trust in 2006. Operating via the DaVita Medical Missions initiative as a mechanism to improve kidney care and dialysis treatment in under-deserved areas of the world, the foundation has now expanded to include screening, prevention, and primary care services.
The Bridge of Life Foundation’s team of doctors and caregivers were awarded for their outstanding service a special dinner at the Knutsford Court Hotel on Sunday, September 11 as they move toward the end of their sixth mission to Jamaica.