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Diasporian News Thu, 13 May 2004

Doctor trying to get dialysis unit for Ghana hospital

The doctor's name is Charity. One of her colleagues points out that the name is also a calling.

Dr. Charity Kankam is chief of the medical staff at St. Vincent Charity Hospital in Cleveland. She is a kidney specialist, a career she chose after a sister-in-law died from kidney failure following childbirth in Ghana.

Kankam is a native of Ghana, a western African country with little in the way of kidney dialysis facilities. Dialysis is necessary to cleanse the blood when the kidneys shut down.

Only one kidney dialysis unit exists for the entire nation of 20 million. It houses two antiquated dialysis machines, Kankam said, So the doctor launched a plan to open a dialysis unit at a large military hospital. She pitched the idea to the government of Ghana, which agreed. She set up a nonprofit organization. Last month, four registered nurses from Ghana arrived in Cleveland for six months of training.

"The trainees are very very good people. They are eager to learn. They love the American generosity," Kankam said this week.

The dialysis unit is needed for acute kidney failure brought on by trauma, such as childbirth, heart attack or injuries.

Kankam raised $25,000 and said she needs at least $100,000 to $120,000 more to start the unit. She has asked drug companies and foundations for financial support.

She is not attempting anything on par with U.S. hospital facilities, "just the bare bones to help keep people alive," St. Vin cent nurse Phyllis Schoenberger wrote in a letter to The Plain Dealer.

Donations to the ef fort can be sent to Acute Dialysis Unit Funds Inc., 5109 Broadway, Suite 310, Cleveland 44127. More information is available by calling 216-883-6656.

One-drug wonder?:

A University Hospitals psychiatrist last week presented findings that suggest a single drug may be effective in treating bipolar disorder, otherwise known as manic depression.

Most people with the disorder require a combination of drugs to control symptoms. Dr. Joseph Calabrese of UH led the nationwide study of 542 patients. It found that the antipsychotic drug Seroquel was effective in treating the depression phase of bipolar. The drug had already been approved to treat manic episodes, as well as schizophrenia.

The study should reshape the standard of care for bipolar disorder, the hospital said in a news release. But consumers should also be aware of cautionary notes regarding Seroquel and its class of drugs, called atypical antipsychotics. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration ordered manufacturers to warn users that the antipsychotics raise the risk of diabetes. The FDA in 2002 also issued an alert about medication errors involving confusion between Seroquel and Serzone, an antidepressant.

Seroquel is made by AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, which sponsored the UH-led study.

Source: The Plain Dealer