By Shihara Maduwage
Chronic Kidney Disease-Uncertain (CKD-U), a fatal disease, has devastated the North Central Province of the country for several years. CKD-U is so widespread among the communities in the North Central Province that in areas such as Padaviya, there is at least one – usually more – CKD-U patients in a family.
It has been more than ten years since CKD-U was detected in the North Central Province and since then tens of thousands of people have fallen victim to the slow-killing disease that shows no mercy.
At first, the disease baffled doctors and experts. Even now, there is no certain explanation for the disease or the high prevalence of it in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. But most doctors agree the main reason for the disease is the hardness of water (high ratio of calcium and magnesium in water) and the agrochemical pollution of water consumed by the villagers in these areas.
Hardness of water refers to the high-level of calcium and magnesium in water, a natural characteristic in the groundwater from the North Central Province.
Calcium and magnesium dissolved in water are the two most common minerals that make water “hard.”
Since these areas are occupied agrarian societies, the ground water is further polluted by high levels of agro chemicals in fertilisers, pesticides and weedicides used for farming and paddy cultivation.
Treatment for the disease includes medication to slow down the gradual deterioration of the kidneys, kidney transplant in some cases, and dialysis, when the disease has progressed far beyond recovery.
In some cases, out of desperation, the patients have turned to various Ayruvedic remedies as well. But, a 100-percent-effective treatment to cure to eradicate the disease has not been found yet.
However, Ravi and Penny Jayewardene, believe that they may have the answer to the mammoth medical problem.
They believe that a Western Medicine Practice called Chelation Therapy could be the key to preventing and treating CKD-U.
Chelation Therapy was originally used as a treatment for lead or toxic metal poisoning. Later, Dr. Norman Clarke pioneered the use of Chelation Therapy for heart diseases in the United States in 1950s after noticing that patients treated for lead poisoning showed improvements in Ischaemic Heart Disease. Now, it is an accepted form of alternative treatment for vascular diseases such as Angina, Diabetes, Neuropathy, Gangrene, Peripheral Arterial Disease and Cerebral Vessel Disease.
Chelation Therapy, a treatment to restore blood flow in victims of Atherosclerosis without surgery, involves the intravenous (IV) infusion of a prescription medicine Ethylene Diamine Tetra Acetic Acid (EDTA) along with magnesium sulphate, vitamins and minerals.
The EDTA infusion then attaches to (Chelates) toxic metals in the body, making them water-soluble and then discharging them through the kidneys. Chelation also removes excess calcium and plaque in blood vessels, so the vessels become smoother, softer and pliable, thus increasing blood flow. The standard treatment includes 30 drips given over a period of 15 – 30 weeks.
Mr. and Mrs. Jayewardene, the son and daughter-in-law of late Sri Lankan President J. R. Jayewardene, are the catalysts, who introduced Chelation Therapy to Sri Lanka more than two decades ago.
“In 1992, my husband suffered from his second heart attack when we were in Yala. He had earlier suffered from a heart attack, when he was just 36-years-old. After his second attack, the doctors said that the only option was a bypass.
“But Ravi adamantly refused to undergo a surgery. Therefore, we started researching for alternative treatments. That was when we found a doctor in Perth, Australia, who practised Chelation Therapy to treat heart diseases,” Mrs. Jayewardene said, explaining how they had accidentally stumbled upon the answer for their prayers. “After undergoing the treatments, Ravi’s condition improved greatly. To this day, he has not suffered another heart attack,” she said.
After the recovery, the couple wanted to introduce the treatment to Sri Lanka. They set up a fund to start a Chelation Clinic at The Rutnam Hospital to treat patients with a range of problems related to toxins in blood. The not-for-profit clinic is financed and managed by the Jayawardenes and run by four doctors, several nurses and support staff working on a voluntary basis.
“So far, we have treated more than 1,300 patients in our clinic. All of them have seen significant improvements. Recently, we treated several workers exposed to lead in their factory, who were suffering from lead poisoning. Now their test results show that their condition has improved vastly,” Mrs. Jayewardene noted.
Sixty eight year old Mahendra Gunasinghe, a patient undergoing Chelation Therapy for Angina, attested to the success of the treatments.
“I am a retired bank manager. After I suffered from a heart attack 20 years ago, the doctors discovered that three of the vessels in my heart were severely blocked. They recommended a bypass, which I underwent in India.
“However, after a few years, my symptoms reappeared and they said I had to do another bypass. But I did not want to go through that again. I heard about the clinic through a friend and decided to try this treatment. So far, I have received 16 drips and my condition has improved vastly. Most of my symptoms are disappearing and I feel healthier,” he said.
Consultant Dr. (Mrs.) M. Vamadevan has been practising Chelation Therapy since the start of the clinic. She explained that this was essentially a treatment to detoxify and purify blood.
“This is essentially a treatment to clean the blood and remove any toxins, whether it is lead, calcium, plaque, cadmium or other excess minerals. Since CKD-U is caused by such toxins in the system, removing these toxins and cleaning the blood can help treat the disease in its early stages as well as prevent it. It basically flushes out the kidneys.
“We have treated patients with kidney diseases, who have seen improvements. It may stress out the kidney in the beginning but in general, it will improve the situation. We monitor the creatinine levels carefully and adjust the treatment accordingly, therefore the risk is minimal,” she explained.
Creatinine is a chemical waste molecule that is generated from muscle metabolism. Creatinine is produced from creatine, a molecule of major importance for energy production in muscles. Approximately 2% of the body’s creatine is converted to creatinine every day. Creatinine is transported through the bloodstream to the kidneys. The kidneys filter out most of the creatinine and dispose of it in the urine. Dr. Vamadevan added that this was a relatively simple, cost-effective, efficient treatment to treat and prevent CKD-U.
“It doesn’t involve a surgical procedure, it doesn’t involve transplants and dialysis. It is a simple drip and an outpatient procedure that can be performed easily. No risks are involved as long as the patients’ kidney functions and creatinine levels are monitored carefully. Most importantly, the patients don’t suffer,” she added.
The doctor also explained that this was a more holistic treatment and improved the general health of the patients as well as treating the kidneys.
“I too take the drip to control my blood sugar levels and also to improve my blood flow and general health. It is safe and easy to administer. I believe that this could be the solution to tackle the curse of CKD-U,” she said.
However, she warned that Chelation Therapy alone would not eradicate CKD-U from the country. It was important to give the people access to clean, pure drinking water, which was not polluted by harmful toxins, she said.
“The core issue that is causing CKD-U is the polluted, hard groundwater. Without fixing this, we cannot eradicate CKD-U. It is a basic right of humans to have access to clean water and we should focus on taking steps to provide that to the people of the North Central Province. It is an urgent need that cannot be ignored,” she said.
Pix by Kithsiri De Mel