The first renal transplant was performed there in 1968 and since 1990, an average of eight a year have been performed on children.
Today the youngest patient is one-year-old Isabella Smith who had to have a kidney removed recently, and is need of a transplant.
When Isabella, of Grassy Park, was born at Victoria Hospital in Wynberg, doctors discovered she had “leaky kidneys”. Her family have had her in and out of the hospital since she was just two months old. The baby had to have one of her kidneys removed so that her condition would not affect her growth.
Professor Mignon McCulloch, a paediatric kidney doctor and intensive care specialist at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital explains that Isabella’s kidneys leak protein so they become swollen. This can be dangerous for her health and her growth.
When she is not in the isolation unit in the renal ward, Isabella is in the paediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU). She also has to undergo regular dialysis, a procedure that purifies the blood to compensate for the kidney’s inability to function.
Her mother Chantal, who is always at her daughter’s bedside - even in the isolation unit - says that despite the pain her daughter is going through, Isabella has an infectious smile and a cheerful disposition that doesn’t reveal any of the discomfort she experiences daily.
Chantal is currently undergoing tests to see if she would be a viable donor so she can give her youngest child a healthy kidney.
“This is a long and tiring process. When she is in intensive care, I can’t sleep next to her because the babies need to be near equipment and monitors. I know that she is being looked after, but I prefer it when I can be with her constantly,” she said.
The Children’s Hospital Trust - the fundraising arm of the hospital - is currently on a drive to raise the money for equipment for the new ICU, to ensure that children like Isabella can receive specialised intensive care at every step of their healing journey.
With her other children being cared for by her sister, the devoted mother says: “it’s now a waiting game” before the doctors can establish whether she will be able to save her daughter.
“Some days in the hospital are easy and Isabella is bright, cheerful and eats all her food. Sometimes the days are tough and Isabella is in pain, tired, and refuses to eat. But that’s what being a mother is all about,” she says.
Professor McCulloch says: “Isabella is such a lovely baby with great parents.
“Unfortunately she suffers from an extremely difficult condition and is the kind of patient who can only be cared for by the teamwork of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital where there is a large team of kidney experts - doctors, nurses, dieticians and other specialist staff.”
To donate towards the upgrading of the ICU, go to www.childrenshospitaltrust.org.za