Ex-cricketer’s kidney transplant appeal
High blood pressure is often known as “the silent killer” and former cricketer Tucoma Robinson considers his own experience a case in point.
Long out of work because of his illness, Mr Robinson finally has a chance at a kidney transplant but needs the community’s help in covering the bill.
Now he hopes that his appeal for assistance will also prompt others to get their blood pressure checked.
“I used to be extremely fit — that’s how I knew something was wrong,” said Mr Robinson, who has spent the past decade getting dialysis.
As a player for Southampton Rangers and Somerset Cricket Club, he could bowl ten overs without difficulty but found himself losing stamina and tiring quickly. I didn’t know I had high blood pressure; I didn’t have any symptoms, so I didn’t find out until it was too late,” he said.
After his doctor noticed a yellow tinge in his eyes, tests picked up blood in his urine, and Mr Robinson learnt he was at the end stage of kidney failure.
Years of unnoticed but extremely high blood pressure had destroyed the organs, which filter toxins from the bloodstream.
Mr Robinson gets nearly four hours of dialysis three times a week, at a cost of roughly $200,000 a year to the Island’s healthcare system.
In that respect, the expense of a kidney transplant means a substantial saving in the long run, as well as rendering Mr Robinson fit and healthy enough to work again.
“I’m on Financial Assistance, which doesn’t cover much, and I’m on HIP — but I’ve had a slew of problems over the years,” he said.
Mr Robinson, who recently turned 40, once worked in construction and ran his own painting business.
Debilitated by his medical condition, which has also left him seeming unfit to potential employers, he had no choice but to go twice to the Lady Cubitt Compassionate Association for help.
To get dialysis required two blood vessels to be surgically connected. The procedure, known as a fistula, is not without risk: he needed treatment overseas for blood clotting, and in 2012 he required an angioplasty, running up a bill of about $60,000 to the LCCA.
“Just a few weeks ago, a transplant team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston came to Bermuda to take a look at me,” he said. “Because of all the time I have accrued on dialysis, I can go to the top of the list for a transplant. All I need is insurance.”
The Bermuda Government’s Health Insurance Plan can cover 60 per cent of the costs: about $70,000 for initial parathyroid surgery, followed by $260,000 for the transplant — but Mr Robinson will have to come up with the rest himself.
Married, with a ten-year-old son, Mr Robinson described himself as “empty, completely empty — that’s why it’s important for me to get well so I can work again”.
He also wants to raise awareness of his condition: diabetes and high blood pressure are the main causes of kidney failure.
There were about 75 fellow patients on dialysis when Mr Robinson started getting treatment; that number is more like 180 nowadays, he said.
“It’s rampant in Bermuda, and it costs about $1,500 per dialysis treatment,” he said.
“It makes sense for the majority of people who have accrued time to get transplants, so that the Government can save money.”
With his family unable to foot the bill for his operations, Mr Robinson has appealed for anyone able to assist with fundraising to contact him on 504-0372.
He is also calling on residents to get themselves checked for high blood pressure or diabetes.
“Most people don’t know they have it,” Mr Robinson said. “I went unmedicated for years. I used to eat very healthily, not knowing that what I was eating was actually poisoning me.
“It’s very important to get checked out — I don’t want anyone to get sick like this.”