Together with fighters like Helena, we’re hitting back against the diseases and illnesses affecting our community
You wouldn’t know it, but behind Helena Kollias’s unstoppable dedication to fundraise for KTDRA, she has faced her own incredible health challenges.
These health battles have plagued her from a young age and meant she couldn’t even finish school, but that hasn’t stopped her from helping others and raising over $30,000 for kidney disease and diabetes so people don’t have to go through the same challenges she has.
“My mother always said I was one of her strongest children, however if I picked up something or got sick it took me a long time to get better,” Helena says.
“I was diagnosed with lupus nephritis at 15 years old. At the time medical professionals hadn’t seen someone my age with this. It was very rare, and they simply didn’t know what they were dealing with.”
Lupus nephritis is an auto immune disease where the immune system attacks its own tissues. This can affect joints, skin, blood cells, the brain, the heart and in Helena’s case, the kidneys.
“I spent six months in the Women’s and Children’s before being transferred to the Royal Adelaide Hospital and finally being diagnosed. The lack of medical advancements meant I couldn’t complete high school,” Helena says.
“I missed out on so much after that; I didn’t have a teenage life. I was constantly in and out of hospital and when the lupus began attacking my kidneys, I started dialysis.”
Helena ended up having two kidney transplants, as the first one was unsuccessful due to the drugs toxifying the kidney. During all this, Helena was sick of letting lupus nephritis take over her life.
“I didn’t know how long I had, so I travelled the world for 10 years between my first and second kidney transplant and managed dialysis in between,” Helena says.
After the second transplant, Helena eventually got back to studying and graduated as a Psychologist, an achievement she thought would be near impossible.
“I’ve faced many challenges and here I am today. I’ve lived and expressed my life in a different way.”
Feeling the urge to give back after her kidney transplant, Helena became a volunteer for Kidney SA.
She was even part of the first introduction of the donor card, an information card indicating if someone was an organ donor.
Fundraising for kidney disease and diabetes
Since then, Helena has been working hard to raise awareness and funds for kidney disease and diabetes for KTDRA.
“When I received my second transplant I needed to give back and give my time to fundraising,” Helena says.
“When I was going through everything, the research advancements were minimal. There was a 75 per cent risk of cancer from the anti-rejection drugs for kidney transplant patients, but now it’s five per cent thanks to research, which makes me incredibly happy.”
Together. Fight. against kidney disease
Helena is an unstoppable fighter, even helping to raise awareness by volunteering to be a part of our new Together. Fight. campaign.
Together. Fight. is a message for all South Australians, reminding us that we are not alone in the fight against diseases and illnesses such as kidney disease. Together with researchers, clinicians, patients and community support, we’re fighting for you by providing grants for life-changing medical research and improved healthcare.
Helena knows first-hand the importance of research and patient care in our hospitals, crediting medical advancements with her ability to keep fighting every day.
“If it wasn’t for research, people like me wouldn’t be here today.”