By Monét Jones
“ I didn’t feel my kidney failing…” Mrs. Vicky Arens-Tjon A Tjoe is 38 years of age and is currently the Interm Director at FDEC (Fundacion Desaroyo Educativo Communitario) on the island of Aruba. Vicky is ever an optimist and always perceives life with the perspective that the glass is half full. Her optimistic view of life is often portrayed in her infectious smile. Although Vicky was born on the neighboring island of Curacao, she considers Aruba to be her home, as she grew up on Aruba since she was 4 ½ years of age. She is happily married to mr. Patrick Arens and their family wouldn’t be complete without their 6 year old daughter Angelina. lthough Vicky is an optimist by nature, she could have never imagined the hand life would have dealt her. Vicky’s story begins at a pretty young age. After finishing Colegio Arubano, the secondary education in Aruba, she decided to move to Holland to further her education, as is traditionally done by many other students residing on the island. Vicky lived in the Netherlands for 10 years before finally deciding to take the step to return to Aruba, the island that had become her home.
Not even three months after her return to Aruba, Vicky confronted medical problems. She had often suffered from menstrual pain in the past, but the pain became increasingly unbearable. After consulting with local specialists, Vicky opted to go abroad to receive medical treatment due to the severity of her pain. During this process she was asked to have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) done. An MRI is a noninvasive method, which helps the doctors to see inside the human body, without having to undergo an operation. Vicky’s MRI results showed that something was odd about her kidneys. The specialist, at that moment, couldn’t identify what her condition was but what they where able to do, was to describe what they saw. The description of what they saw raised a few red flags in Vicky’s head. This made her decide to have a Gynecologist, a doctor who specializes in treating woman and the female reproductive system, evaluate her situation again. Vicky’s Gynecologist examined her situation along with the Urologist (a doctor who has specialized knowledge and skill regarding problems of (fe-)male urinary tract and male reproductive organs). Vicky was called immediately after the consult with the two different specialists had taken places. Her situation was urgent, as there was something wrong with her kidneys! At that moment in time, Vicky was unaware of the damage that had already taken place in her body. “The thing is that I had a gynecological condition called Endometriosis”, Vicky explained. “I was diagnosed with this condition when I was about 30 years old”. Endometriosis is a problem that some women have during their childbearing years. It means that a type of tissue that normally lines your uterus (the womb) is also growing outside your uterus. Ordinarily, each month your body releases hormones that cause this tissue, which is usually inside the womb, to thicken and either get ready for an egg or break down and bleed. This is typically called your menstrual cycle. When you have endometriosis, the tissue that is outside the womb also gets thick but the blood cannot flow out of our body and it sometimes forms scar tissue. “The endometriosis that was outside the womb had in fact infected my left fallopian tube”, Vicky continued, “ and the endometriosis on my left fallopian tube infected and clogged my left ureter, which runs from my left 1
kidney to my bladder”. “So I had it also out side my fallopian tube and going on my ureter”, she summarized. This medical condition had gone undetected during the decade that she lived in The Netherlands. Vicky thinks that the condition was years in the making, with each menstrual cycle it became worse and at a given point in time it was impeding the urine from running freely from the kidney to the bladder. “By the time that I got in contact with the Urologist, it was too late to save my left kidney”, says Vicky with a calm voice. Vicky was diagnosed with Hydronephrosis at the age of 31. Hydronephrosis, literally means water inside the kidney, is a condition that typically occurs when one (or both) kidney(s) becomes swollen due to the failure of normal drainage of urine from the kidney to the bladder. A blocked ureter can cause urine to go back up into the kidney, which causes swelling. Vicky’s kidney could have been saved if her condition had been detected a year earlier. In such a case, she would have had to undergo an operation in which ureteral stents would be inserted. Stents are tubes that allow the blocked urine to drain into the bladder. Ever the optimist, Vicky looked at the bright side of the situation while she continued her story, “The urologist couldn’t do anything else for my left kidney, but the positive side of this story is that my condition is stable”. “Due to my condition I will have to undergo regular check ups twice a year; once with an echo and once by means of a blood test”, she explains. The check ups are done to ensure that Vicky’s only functioning kidney, has taken over the function of both kidneys and also to verify that it is functioning optimally. The doctors also check the status of the failed left kidney, as it has not been removed from Vicky’s body. “I didn’t feel my kidney failing, because it’s a condition that you
don’t feel, I had severe menstrual pain, maybe that might have been a clue, but other than that, I can’t say that I felt my kidney failing”. The thing is that I never had a kidney problem, my kidney problem was caused due to other circumstances, that goes to show how fragile and well connected the human body really is”. “So that is basically what my status is right now and I feel good”, she says with a warm smile on her face. “My kidney is functioning properly and I was put on blood pressure medication, due to a hereditary risk of high blood pressure, in order to protect my only functioning kidney”.
“…my kidney problem was caused due to other circumstances…..” As the interview slowly began to wind down to the conclusion, Vicky shared her last thoughts with me stating: “I think I’m a pretty positive person. I like the fact that I can go to my doctor twice a year to have my only functioning kidney checked out”. “That’s very important and valuable to me”. “I have to be stricter with regards to my salt intake and I have to be more active, because a healthy lifestyle promotes a healthy kidney”. “I feel good….” she says, “and I basically think that I can grow old with just one kidney, that is, if everything goes well and if I can help it!”, she concludes chuckling. “My advice to anyone reading the topic of kidney failure, would be to pay close attention to your diet, do your regular check ups and listen to your body”. “Trust your instincts and if something doesn’t feel right, speak up”. Vicky ends her interview with the phrase: “help your body, help you.☐
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