UK: University lecturer Munongi has overcome skin cancer and TWO kidney transplants

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By Phoebe Abruzzese I The Northern Echo

An “inspirational” university lecturer who has battled back from skin cancer and two transplants in the past two decades has made it his mission to increase awareness of kidney health.

Kudz Munongi, a 41-year-old finance and enterprise lecturer at Sunderland University, has experienced a long and difficult battle with his own health.

In 2004, at the age of 22, Kudz was diagnosed with stage four kidney disease, and underwent five years of dialysis. Despite receiving a kidney transplant in 2009, his kidney function began to deteriorate again in 2020, after being treated for skin cancer.

However, the popular lecturer never let his health struggles determine his life’s path and has dedicated himself to broadening the minds of the next generation – most recently aiming to increase awareness of kidney health in Sunderland.

Munongi, originally from Zimbabwe, was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2004 at the age of just 22. Off the back of temporary vision loss and high blood pressure, tests revealed his kidneys were full of water. After being told by doctors he was in severe kidney failure, Kudz then waited nearly five years on dialysis to have a kidney transplant

The transplant, performed at the Royal Infirmary in Newcastle, allowed Kudz to pursue his dream of becoming a teacher and working in education. He studied for his BA and PGCE at the University of Sunderland, where he now works as a Senior Lecturer in the University’s Accounting and Finance department.

The Northern Echo: Kudz's health struggled had a profound impact on his life, though he kept working throughout treatment.

Kudz’s health struggles had a profound impact on his life, though he kept working throughout treatment.

Kudz’s health struggled had a profound impact on his life, though he kept working throughout treatment. (Image: University of Sunderland)

However, this was not the end of Kudz’s health woes. Five years ago, he was diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer that necessitated chemotherapy. Two years later, his kidney function began to decline, and Kudz was put back on dialysis until he could undergo a second transplant.

Kudz said: “It certainly felt like a huge setback but over the years I’ve developed a lot of resilience so even in the face of such terrible and surprising news, I still found I could still find the courage to face it.

“The regime of dialysis is very harsh, it’s every other day – that was the biggest challenge, but I preferred to go into the hospital rather than have the treatment for home – to be surrounded by people who are like-minded, nurses and patients, and I like to communicate so that really made a big difference.”

Thankfully, three months ago, a compatible donor became available.

He said: “I got the call at 3am and I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited. It seemed more of a surprise the second time around.”

Despite the immense physical and mental challenge of the last 18 years, Kudz credits his passion for teaching with pushing him through difficult times.

Kudz said: “The University of Sunderland helped me through – 200 per cent. I look at my work as my purpose and I love the work I do – that made a major difference. I like to keep myself busy.”

Kudz certainly sticks to the “keep busy” mentality.

On top of his full-time lecturing role, Kudz is an ambassador for Kidney Research UK, raising funds and awareness for the charity. He is now hoping to re-establish an active Kidney Association in Sunderland to help support younger patients in the city who are living with kidney problems.

Kudz said: “I think Sunderland is well positioned to lead initiatives in raising awareness, not only on the donor register, but also kidney health as a preventative to other associated conditions.

“My desire is to highlight priority areas and how to tackle them in order to improve kidney health. In fact, by collaborating with Kidney Research UK and The National Kidney Federation in Newcastle, Durham and Middlesbrough, the message can be re-imagined so that our youth and people from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups can relate and take positive action. This means increasing people’s understanding of risk factors, prevention, diagnosis and care.”