Dr Anthony

Exclusive: Dr Anthony Buhangamaiso speaks after his successful kidney transplant 

(Last Updated On: 15 February 2024)

Hoima I After he was diagnosed with a chronic kidney disease, one of the country’s youngest surgeons, Dr Anthony Buhangamaiso, 37, was full of courage and optimism even when his kidney was failing.

Dr Buhangamasio was sure he would overcome the health problem and to him, it was just a matter of the day for the surgery. After his successful surgery in December 2023, at Mediheal Hospital in Eldoret, Kenya, tndNews sat down with him.  

Doctor, we are aware you went for a kidney transplant and came back. Tell us how it went. 

Thank you, Milton. First, I am called Dr Anthony Buhangamaiso. As you are aware I have been struggling with a chronic kidney disease for about eight years. The treatment I required was a kidney transplant. So, for me to move on with life I needed to have a transplant. It has been two months since I got a kidney transplant last year (on December 7). 

When we were told that we needed a kidney transplant, we started looking around: first, who was going to donate, and secondly, the logistics to facilitate the transplant. Good enough God was good on our side and my wife Martha was eligible for donation – she’s the one who donated to me one of her kidneys and also the logistics to facilitate the transplant, people around the world came and joined us in this fight and truth should be said that people stood with us.

We departed for the kidney transplant centre on September 15, 2023, and we spent about four months in Kenya. The reason why we spent all that time was because the Doctors were trying to stabilize me for the surgery; there were so many other problems in the body that had resulted in kidney disease.

I had a heart problem, I had lung problems, I was hypertensive; I had pulmonary hypertension then I also had a chest infection which was very diffused, which they (Doctors) had to first clear. So, God was good the Doctors managed to stabilize me – the chest infection was cleared, the lung problem was solved and the heart problems were also solved. I was assessed by the different teams and they all cleared me for surgery.

We also spent one-month post-transplant still in Kenya because there were issues to monitor me for. They had to monitor how the new kidney was functioning in me, how the body was responding to the new treatment, how am I coping with the medication and how is the body responding to those medications, are they doing a good job. I was discharged back to Uganda and handed over to the kidney Doctors here in Uganda.

Of course, after the transplant I spent about three days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), I was discharged to the general ward where I spent three days. In total, I spent six days in the hospital after the transplant.

What was your first week after the transplant like and how do you feel now

Of course, the first week was hectic. The new kidney was also struggling with a sick body, there is a lot of stress from the surgery itself and then there are lots of medications that you are getting. However, it’s better before the transplant. I cannot say it is more difficult than life before the transplant.

At least for the first time in about 4-5 months I was able to see urine coming which was a big landmark in my treatment. So, since then blood pressure has been within normal, my body every week that passes (of course every week is different: W1, W2, W3, W4 and W5). Today, I am at W8. Every week is different.

The first two weeks have been difficult with a lot of fatigue and of course, there is the stress of surgery, you are coping with the new medications which are extremely heavy for the body. So, the first two weeks are a bit very hectic. In week number three (W3), I started to feel some energy; the body swelling was down and more tolerant to exercise.

The other good thing also is that there are minimal restrictions on diet. Of course, before the transplant, there are so many restrictions on diet because most of the waste products are not coming out but after the transplant, you have a wider range of feeding options. Despite the stress and fatigue, you are free to feed for the first time in a very long time. You are free to drink as much water as you can, unlike in the past when you have to limit the body fluids because the wastes are not coming out. 

Life after the transplant is okay and a transplant is a definite treatment for the end state of the kidney disease.

Talking about post-transplant, what are some of the things you are not supposed to consider and do?

The restrictions are, but first, of course, post-transplant and immediate post-transplant you are advised to do some exercise but it should not be strenuous and then feeding there are no restrictions unless you have some comorbidities like diabetes, you may have to restrict your sugar. Also feeding you are told not to eat red meat for at least three months. But you can feed on chicken, fish, and the white meat you are free to take.

Many patients with kidney disease also have hypertension so you have to consider low salt intake to reduce fluid retention in the body but other than that greens, juice that is not carbonated; the matooke that you never used to eat you can eat. The fruits you are not supposed to eat because of the potassium levels. 

The other restriction is because you are on very high doses of immunosuppressive drugs – the drugs that have to keep the graft alive, they have to keep the body’s immune systems in check… so you are asked to be extremely careful against contracting infections because the immunity is down. All the measures that help you to prevent infections are paramount: hand washing, avoiding crowds, and weddings – especially for the first year is very important.

Make sure you don’t contract other infections because the body’s immunity is kept logged with the drugs you are taking. Also, during this time, we are taking some drugs to keep the body (like we are taking septrin to make sure there are no chest infections and other infections), and there are some antiviral drugs and antibiotics to make sure the first period (six months) are controlled.

As times go by the drug loads keep reducing, there are those for six months, one year and nine months. However, there are drugs for life; the immunosuppressive drugs have to keep on for life, to keep the body’s immunity in check.

Is that the set of drugs you will take?

Yes, those start immediately even before the transplant. We started on those drugs intravenously – before going to the theatre, when you are in theatre, when you come out when still in ICU you are given doses of those drugs to keep the immune systems in check and you are also taking them orally and they are for life.

Allow us to go back to pre-transplant. The processes were long and it came with some fears. How was your last week of the operation?

It was quite interesting that by the time I left for the transplant, I had it in mind that what I needed to save me was a transplant. For me who has the illness and the body pains, what I was going through, I knew what could pull it out, what could improve my life was a transplant. Because, before the transplant.

We also had a chance to interact with people who had done transplants. There is a lady called Rebecca (full name the publication cannot reveal for her privacy), who had a transplant in 2022. We had so many interactions, she did hers in Turkey but the story seems to be the same. Hers was, she got it during the pregnancy and it progressed into chronic kidney disease. 

We interacted a lot. I had life examples from people who had gone through it and I was totally convinced (because we were doing dialysis) and some people seemed to be stable on dialysis. But the truth is that I was not improving on dialysis. Everyday dialysis was weakening me.

Also read: Worldwide generosity, Galo’s visit pours hope in ailing Dr Anthony Buhangamaiso 

Before last week, allow me to say this: there are a series of investigations in the hospital to make sure that you are fit to get a kidney and some of these problems I have talked of like chest infections, the hypertension, many times were discovered on routine tests that were done on patients to undergo a kidney transplant. When I was there I was elated, I was never in fear because I knew this was what I needed, I was just waiting when this day would come and every time they postponed saying they needed to clear this, I never felt a relief. I was becoming more stressed: when shall this day come?

I will tell you: the week of the operation I was supposed to be admitted on Monday and operated on on Tuesday, somehow the hospital administration had issues and we were postponed, we spent other days in the hospital and even on the day of the operation I was moved to a theatre in the morning and wheeled out (I think the administration had some visitors from the ministry of health) and surgeons had to meet these people from the ministry. 

Because I am a surgeon and we do things to please patients and I have indeed worked on patients who have recovered, so I believe that someone is going to take the precautions to make sure I am well. So, that was never my fear. My fear was when is this time coming? You know, patients fear surgery but when things are done rightly there is no need for fear. I was never fearful; I was never worried about that day and that week. I was always eager like someone waiting for their wedding. 

It was very easy for us to always understand the Doctors’ rationales for delays, and why they were stepping back a bit, we always understood because the same thing we also do to patients… We also discussed with the Doctors and in some instances, they bought into our ideas and we moved on very fast. 

Sometimes they suggested something and we thought ‘Can’t we do this’ – they would give us their rationale. It was many bilateral relationships and we finally got what we needed because we always had a good interaction and they also listened to us.

Also read: Experts explain kidney disease as Dr Anthony Buhangamaiso battles with it

What was your biggest strength going for the surgery?

My biggest strength was my wife, she was always my strength. Every time I would see her, her investment in this whole thing would push me not to give up because if you see someone there it should encourage us to think about what we are doing. It’s not that they are doing it for fun, you need to support their actions, you need to support their feelings; you need to support their endeavors. So every time I saw her pushing, caring for me, she had to prove, look for something to eat; make sure I was in the hospital, make appointments – drive me to Kampala and back here (Hoima) – you see those endeavours: it would push me to fight back. That was one.

Dr Anthony
Dr Anthony and his wife Martha hosted tndNews at their community health facility in Hoima at the weekend.

And secondly, I like the practice of medicine personally. I will tell you: in the 10 years I have been in practice (I think my wife will testify that I like the practice) even on the last days before we went for the transplant, many times we would go to Kampala, we are there in the morning and nephrologists would ask ‘when did you last go to the theatre?’ Probably the last night I was in the theatre – you see that? This business of trying to do something for someone has always been what is pushing us. Yeah, you might be a big officer but we have to learn to do something for someone.

So, what pushed me even when I was sick (I will testify to this): because we kept working and working, attending to patients and at some points I felt like I was sick, I could not come and attend to that person. You know, she would think I am just refusing until after some time when she realized that ‘I think he’s sick, he cannot do this’. So, what has always pushed me is her endeavour and I said I also need to fight back, I need to be positive about this.

And then I like the practice. You can imagine I am about eight weeks but I have been coming here (to the health facility) to attend to some people…

Don’t miss part two of the interview and one with his wife – Martha Namugabo (donor). It will follow before long! 

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