Bethel O’Keeffe found out that she had kidney disease in her 20’s.

I lived in an environment with little medical support so it was hard to receive early treatment for kidney disease.

I first heard about Kidney Support Network (KSN) from going up to the hospital and dialysing and have been a strong KSN supporter ever since.

I commenced working for KSN as an Indigenous officer 5 years ago because I know how important early detection and education is to the Indigenous community. Most Indigenous people find out at end stage renal disease where there is little you can do.

A lot of people don’t want to know if they’re sick so are reluctant to get testing for Kidney disease. This is where I come in.

I get to travel and meet with other Indigenous people and help educate them with their food and lifestyle choices. Our biggest issue in the Indigenous community is education and early detection.

At first it’s hard, even for me, to break through to them but then they see I’m not going away and I care. Then they listen to what I have to say.

I have actually had people refuse treatment and take the kidney failure as a sign that they’re not meant to be here, a death sentence. I tell them my story and let them know there are many things you can do to help yourself and live a good life. I live a happy and good life and am thankful and grateful each day.  I have had the opportunity to talk to politicians and policy changers and it is my dream to extend KSNs’ Indigenous support Australia wide. Early detection and education is what saves lives.

KSN is an amazing grass roots organisation. It is one of the only organisations to really take care of everything with Indigenous and kidney patients. I love how it understands us as patients and wants to educate.

I had a kidney transplant that failed 8 years ago and am still awaiting another transplant.

KSN has helped improve my life greatly by giving me freedom with my dialysis, by standing side by side with me and helping me educate the Indigenous community. If I didn’t have KSN life would be very different. I could honestly say I would not have a life. It understands and cares as an organisation and it’s work is crucial to kidney patients. A lot of times staff at hospitals don’t have time to talk and explain things to you, KSN does.  I respect KSN for what it is doing and can see the difference it has made to the Indigenous population where we have worked.

Every time I get sick I say “I’ve got too much to do, I can’t go now, I’m on a mission”.