This fight is personal for Helena Kollias, who has been battling lupus nephritis since she was 15 years old.
“At the time I was diagnosed, 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,” Helena says.
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 medications toxifying the kidney. 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 as though she now has a second chance at life, Helena continues to demonstrate her incredible fighting spirit through fundraising and volunteering.
Helena has raised more than $30,000 for Kidney, Transplant and Diabetes Research Australia (KTDRA) – a charity of The Hospital Research Foundation Group. This amazing effort is helping to improve treatments and outcomes for other people in our community facing similar health battles.
“When I was going through everything, the research advancements were minimal,” Helena says.
“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.”
Helena is an unstoppable fighter, even helping to raise awareness by volunteering to be a part of The Hospital Research Foundation Group’s 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, The Hospital Research Foundation Group is fighting alongside us 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,” says Helena.
To find out more about The Hospital Research Foundation Group and what it means to, Together. Fight. visit hospitalresearch.com.au/togetherfight.