ABU DHABI – A Filipino woman, who is recuperating after a successful kidney transplant in the capital, said timely diagnosis by unplanned medical tests saved her life.
"God sent me angels in many forms since I was diagnosed with kidney failure three years ago until the smooth kidney transplant was done two weeks back," Pinky P. Carbonera, 37, a dental assistant, told Emirates News Agency (WAM).
Two unplanned tests – the first one in October 2013 that made the initial diagnosis and the second one detecting the deteriorated condition in October 2017 – were crucial in her successful treatment.
"The support of two [successive] employers during the past three years and a cousin who came forward to donate her kidney appeared as ‘angels sent by God,’" Carbonera said.
"Above all, the most fortunate thing is being in the UAE with advanced medical treatment covered by health insurance. I am grateful to the support and care given by doctors and staff at Mafraq hospital and Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, SKMC," she added.
Otherwise, she believed that she also might have had the same fate as her father who passed away in December 2013 back home due to kidney failure.
"My father, a marine engineer, was diagnosed very late. He could not undergo a kidney transplant because it was too expensive in the Philippines – PHP2 million (AED151,320). His health insurance did not cover the transplant," reveals Carbonera, who underwent the kidney transplant surgery on Sept. 28, 2020 at the SKMC under Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA).
Doctors told her hereditary factors caused her medical condition. "My experience proves that everyone having a family history of any fatal disease should go for a regular check-up. Early diagnosis always helps successful treatment of any serious ailments," she explained.
Timely but unplanned tests
"Had I not been diagnosed by an unplanned test in the initial stages of my condition, medical treatment would have been much more difficult," said Carbonera, who has been living in the UAE since 2011.
When she felt unwell sometime in October 2013, she went for a basic medical check-up at a clinic.
"Surprisingly, I had a very high blood pressure and the doctor prescribed some other tests that diagnosed the kidney dysfunction," she recalled.
She cried a lot and fell into a depression. However, she found solace in the fact that diet control and some medicine were enough for the time being.
Meanwhile, Carbonera said her mother also passed away in June 2016.
"It was a tough time," said Carbonera, a single mother of two children.
Life moved on smoothly until another unplanned medical check-up detected her worsening condition in October 2017.
"I was shocked to see that I had a high creatinine level – around 780. If it reached 1000, I would be in a coma,” she said.
She was immediately admitted at Mafraq Hospital in Abu Dhabi and undergone two minor surgeries to enable the beginning of dialysis.
She believed that an unplanned check-up saved her from a potential critical medical condition. "God will send you angels in many forms, that is my experience," Carbonera says smilingly.
Search for kidney donor
The doctors suggested that a kidney transplant was the only option. She went through dialysis three days a week next three years, initially at Mafraq Hospital and then at SEHA’s dialysis center.
"Sometimes dialysis was painful and it was a difficult time because the search for a kidney donor among the close relatives ended without any luck,” she said.
The UAE’s organ donation law stipulates that the donor and recipient must be relatives within four degrees.
Dialysis as a movie-going experience
As she could watch her favorite movies during the four-hour dialysis, she convinced herself that it was just a movie-going experience in three days.
"The remaining days, I transformed myself to enjoy each and every moment of my life to overcome that tough time," Carbonera recalled.
One day she got a call from her aunt - paternal uncle’s wife - living in a village in the Philippines, saying that her daughter Airene Penagunda was willing to donate her kidney.
"I never imagined that she would be ready for such a sacrifice,” she said.
Airene, 33, reached Abu Dhabi in February this year and Carbonera was delighted when their screening tests found that the transplant was possible.
Simple transplant procedure
Documentation was simple. "We had to just submit parents’ and our birth certificates to prove the relationship."
The transplant surgery was smooth. "I felt I was in deep sleep. Airene also felt the same. We have to take complete rest in the next three months. Then we would be back to normal life," she said.
"I think God decided that I should be in the UAE to get appropriate medical treatment in time,” she added.
Meanwhile, she found a soulmate in Abu Dhabi and got engaged with him in October. His support during the treatment helped her a lot and she is looking forward to the wedding as soon as she gets well.
"I am waiting for the new life,” she said. (WAM/Ibrahim Shukralla)