Your father has 24 hrs to live: When your kidneys are beyond repair

Your father has 24 hrs to live: When your kidneys are beyond repair

Philemon* was the closest to his dad among his three other siblings. The second born in a family of sons, he was 33 when his dad – Douglas* – a career medical doctor, breathed his last at the Juba Teaching Hospital in March 2018.

“When his health deteriorated so much, we rushed him to a private hospital within Juba at 3.00 am on March 10, 2018. But at 11.00 am when a urologist came to see him, the doctor told us to our face to make the best out of the few hours he was left with. In his own words my dad had a maximum of 24 hours to live,” says Philemon.

The family then made a decision to transfer him to Juba Teaching Hospital, where, despite all that the medical team was trying to do, Douglas’ health continued to deteriorate.

“At 10.00 am the following day, just 23 hours after the doctor’s prediction, my dad was no more. All we were left with were the memories, some not so good,” says Philemon.

Douglas joins a long list of men and women worldwide who has paid the ultimate price because of acute kidney failure occasioned by a long history of binge drinking of alcohol.

Philemon says he knew his dad as drinking when he was say 10 years old.

A career medical doctor, Douglas worked for a number of Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) for years in Nairobi, Kenya, where the pay was pretty good.

“We lived in Lavington, one of the leafy suburbs in Nairobi, the biggest city in the entire East and Central Africa. My dad had a driver, lived in a gated community where the house rent was paid by the employer and a cook. The NGOs would pay for our school fees as well,” Philemon reminisces.

But the life in fast lane was complicated by his father’s binge drinking. He would be in and out of hospitals, but would head straight for his bottle as soon as he felt better.

“We did not know that his kidneys had given away a long time ago. In 2009, it became evident that he was no longer the same old dad we had known. But come 2017 after his retirement and return to Juba, dad’s appointment with the grim reaper was almost certain. But we offered our support as the only family he had,” he says.

Healthy kidneys keep your whole body in balance by removing waste products and extra water from your body, helping make red blood cells and helping control blood pressure, according to

Having kidney failure means that 85-90% of your kidney function is gone, and they don’t work well enough to keep you alive. There is no cure for kidney failure, but it is possible to live a long life with treatment. Having kidney failure is not a death sentence, and people with kidney failure live active lives and continue to do the things they love.

But there is a catch: kidney failure does not happen overnight, especially where it is triggered by binge drinking of alcohol and other harmful drugs.

Alcohol and your Kidneys

Kidneys filter harmful substances, including alcohol, from blood, according to Alcohol can cause changes in the function of the kidneys and make them less able to filter your blood.

Kidneys also keep the right amount of water in the body. Alcohol affects the ability of kidneys to do this. When alcohol dehydrates (dries out) the body, the drying effect can affect the normal function of cells and organs, including the kidneys.

How much alcohol is too much?

Binge drinking (usually more than four to five drinks within two hours) can raise a person’s blood alcohol to dangerous levels. This can cause a sudden drop in kidney function known as “acute kidney injury.” When this happens, dialysis is needed until a person’s kidney function returns to normal.

Acute kidney injury usually goes away in time, but in some cases, it can lead to lasting kidney damage.

Some people should not drink alcohol at all because of some underlying medical conditions or genetic reasons. For this reason, it is important to ask your health provider.

However, it is not only alcohol taken in large quantities that is responsible for kidney failure. Certain acute and chronic diseases, toxic exposure to environmental pollutants or certain medications, severe dehydration, insufficient blood flow to the kidneys and kidney trauma are some of the reasons that result in kidney failure.

Mary Eve Wanjiku first got ill in March 2008 in Kenya, but results from a nearby clinic were not conclusive. In an interview with The Standard newspaper in 2018 – ten years later – she remembered she had symptoms like fatigue and puffiness in the face. Then in September of the same year, she got very ill. This time it was worse.

“I underwent a series of tests and the nephrology team at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) discovered that both of my kidneys had failed. I was diagnosed with End Stage Kidney Disease. I was placed on dialysis, twice a week for 18 months. In 2010, I had my first successful transplant at KNH when a kidney was donated by my aunt,” she said in the interview.

She was not a non-alcoholic, alright, but there she was grappling with kidney failure.

But Douglas’ drinking habits and his abusive self while in a drunken stupor would not just draw him away from his children, but opened a gate for alcoholism right inside his family.

“My dad would be so harsh after imbibing copious amounts of alcohol. And while he was never assaulting us physically, the verbal assault was just bad enough. With time I also got into drinking, a habit that would push me to alcohol dependency,” says Philemon who at some point had to undergo rehabilitation. Thank God his dad invested in real estate and other sectors and the family is stable financially.