UAE resident battling kidney disease halts treatment due to high costs

Louie May Taboclaon's basic health insurance does not cover dialysis or transplant surgery

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A 35-year-old resident with chronic kidney disease is struggling to pay for regular dialysis due to a shortfall in her health insurance.

Louie May Taboclaon, who lives in Al Quoz, Dubai, had renal failure due to to a compromised immune system and was diagnosed with stage five chronic kidney disease.

The mother of two young children lives with her husband, who works at a construction firm and does not have adequate health insurance to pay for her medical care.

She is now relying on the goodwill of charitable hospitals and foundations to step in and pay for her treatment and a potential kidney transplant.

Undergoing dialysis and not having the money to afford it is cruel for anyone
Fatima Rashid, kidney donor recipient

“I have had dialysis twice at Rashid Hospital, but now I have stopped as each session costs about Dh700 and a catheter costs about Dh7,000,” she said.

“I feel better, but my back hurts and I feel dizzy. Sometimes my side is also painful and I’ve lost a lot of weight.

“The symptoms began last year, but I didn’t recognise them at all. I started to lose weight in November, and quite quickly I lost 10kg.”

Ms Taboclaon used to work in a beauty salon but gave up her job to care for her two children aged six and three.

Her last treatment was on January 10.

During kidney dialysis, a tube is attached to a patient’s arm via a needle that extracts blood into a filtration machine that replicates the job of a heathy, fully functioning kidney.

Each session can last for about four hours and is done three times a week. It costs between $250-300 (Dh920-1,100) on average in the UAE for every dialysis.

A limited set of renal services are offered to those without health insurance and cases reviewed individually.

Emergency renal care is provided at Rashid Hospital. The Dubai Hospital also offers dialysis services.

Foundation delivers support

Those who are unable to pay for kidney treatment can apply for financial support via the Al Jalila Foundation’s A’awen support fund.

Fatima Rashid, 43, who underwent a kidney transplant earlier this month, raised the plight of Ms Taboclaon and said those without health insurance need support.

“Undergoing dialysis and not having the money to afford it is cruel for anyone,” she said.

“I was lucky to have a good insurance coverage through my husband, but not everyone can count on that.”

Ms Rashid, from Bangladesh, had the condition after a chronic urinary tract infection led to severe kidney stones.

She later discovered she had kidney failure at the same time as she became pregnant, eight years ago.

“People would not believe that I was sick, as there was not a lot of understanding about kidney disease,” she said.

“I did not look ill and there were no obvious signs. Eventually, it took away the full functioning capacity of my kidney.

“When I got pregnant, my kidney could not cope. I changed my diet drastically, which helped prolong my existence on my existing organ.”

During her decade of disease, Ms Rashid was urinating in the middle of the night, experiencing fatigue, anaemia and high blood pressure.

Because of her switch to a healthier, vegan diet, she was able to ward off diabetes and high cholesterol, two other common symptoms of kidney disease.

Ms Rashid had a transplant operation at Mediclinic City Hospital in Dubai on January 10 after being registered as needing a transplant in October.

The procedure was pre-emptive as doctors were aware of her kidney edging closer to redundancy and she was lucky to find a suitable donor, before she required dialysis.

Although donors are not accepted from friends, the law does allow donors from close family, such as siblings and parents.

Ms Rashid received a kidney from an anonymous man who recently died.

“There is a compatibility criteria that the hospital maintains, the person must match all the criteria required,” she said.

“I was speaking to the transplant court and my mum said she was happy to donate, then I had a call to say there was a cadaver donor available.

“Someone had registered as donor, and I was lucky enough to benefit from his kindness.

“I am recovering slowly but prone to infection, so I need to very careful. It is a lifelong affair and everything has changed.

“I was very lucky, and shocked to speak with others in the same situation who do not have health insurance that covers them for this kind of treatment.”

Updated: January 25, 2023, 6:57 AM