A verdict that stumped Brancker

Gercine Carter,

Added 08 November 2010

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WELL KNOWN BUSINESSMAN and cricket legend Rawle Brancker  had  been going for his annual medical check-up for many years and getting good results. That was until a visit last year when his doctor expressed concern that he was “spilling an enormous amount of protein in his urine” – a troubling indication of gout, or worse, kidney disease. Brancker consulted nephrologist Dr Lisa Belle who did tests and a subsequent biopsy. The result was devastating news to him.  He was suffering from chronic kidney disease (CKD); tests showed functional use of his kidneys was  down to 25 per cent. “Of course that was not the kind of news I wanted,” Brancker confessed and when he discussed his options with his doctors, the choices given to him were all daunting – “hemo-dialysis, peritoneal dialysis, kidney transplantation”, or he could do nothing and eventually die from kidney failure.  “I did not like the concept of dialysis because it seemed to have been a negative approach to life – all the restrictions, especially after consulting with Dr Belle and hearing of all the things I could not eat, and the lifestyle change that had to be made”. So Brancker decided on this option – kidney transplant. To some people, this is almost a death sentence. But  Brancker took hope when he remembered his eldest sister had lived with one kidney for 55 years, dying at age 85. He also drew on his deep faith.  “I have always had a very strong spiritual side of my life, and obviously I called on it and the good Lord gave me  the strength and hope that would be necessary to deal with a situation like this. “I recall walking out of Dr Belle’s office the day that she confirmed I in fact had advanced CKD, and between the walk from her office to my car in the car park, I kept asking God  ‘Why, why me?’ I thought I was doing the things, according to His will” Brancker recalls sitting in his car outside the doctor’s office and having a private talk with God. In those moments he was divinely led to Psalm 23. “I saw all the strength that I needed. “That took me all the way through and whenever I experienced a little reversal, I called on it. “I very quickly determined in my mind that a kidney transplant was what I needed, because I needed to continue living; I needed to continue producing and being positive in life, and I saw the dialysis, whichever form I opted for, as eating into my productive life. “I believed the  transplant was going to offer renewal – new life and I started focusing only on a transplant.” Transplantation is a very detailed process. It means finding a donor with the same or complimentary blood type, then going through the process of securing  all the other features that would make a kidney transplant work. But Brancker insists it was divine intervention when he began to see a “miracle” unfold. First, he found a willing donor in a “loved one” who offered one of her kidneys when it was confirmed that hers was the “perfect match”. Brancker mused that that was the first sign that a miracle was about to take place, since he had been told that there were so many thousands all over the world who wait for years to find a perfect match. He was also told that blood relatives were not always suitable. Then, Barbadian journalist Tony Best entered the picture. He put Brancker in touch with noted Barbadian-born United States kidney specialist  Professor Velma Scantlebury, associate director of the Kidney Transplant Programme at Christiana Care Hospital in Newark, Delaware, who in her illustrious career had performed more than 2000 transplants. “I would say that was all part of the miracle that I experienced in the whole exercise – among everything else, meeting this lady [Dr Scantlebury], and being exposed to the level of expertise she has, and the relative ease with which she conducted  herself. “It was also very comforting to know that there was expertise here as well that I could fall back on and with whom Dr Scantlebury was able to work, in our own nephrologist Dr Lisa Belle.” Preparation of donor and recipient began immediately, and a series of ultrasound, CT scans, countless blood tests followed in weeks and weeks of preparation leading up to the surgery. Whatever was done in Barbados was sent to Dr Scantlebury and her transplantation team in Delaware. Tests continued up to the day preceding the surgery. The day of surgery came and despite “slight anxiety”, Brancker said,  “I went to surgery without any fear. I always felt it was going to be fine because I was blessed to be among a bunch of people who knew what they were doing and who made me feel very comfortable.” He said he was also buoyed by the wave of prayer offered up for both donor and recipient by family and friends all over the world and further assured by the prayer session by the transplantation team just before the surgery began.  By that morning, Brancker’s weight had dropped from 170 pounds to 146 pounds. His kidney function had deteriorated to five per cent, dialysis nipping at his heels. “I was afraid to look at my skin and my arms, my legs. I was back to my schoolboy weight.” On that morning of surgery, donor and recipient lay side by side in adjacent rooms, as two surgeons worked  simultaneously removing a  kidney from the donor and preparing  Brancker to receive it. The transplant surgeon’s joy  was indescribable “when that kidney peed”, and Dr Scantlebury still shows the emotion of the moment when she talks about the experience. Five days’ hospitalisation, and  both  Brancker and his “loved one”  left  Christiana Care Hospital  elated – he, ecstatic at being given a new lease on life, she, marvelling that she was able to give that life and feel so good after such major surgery. Brancker, now has three kidneys. It is the third which Dr Scantlebury  placed in his groin, resting over his bladder, that has given him a new lease on life.  He is once again his vibrant self  and his six-foot frame gradually resembles the robust sportsman that he once was. No wonder Brancker now strongly recommends kidney transplantation for a better  quality of life, over dialysis and has become a strong advocate for this option.

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