Last year, we had the opportunity to get to know Nikos Pratsas, founder and administrator of the Hellenic Community of Renal Patients and Transplants, and great supporter of World Kidney Day. He has been doing an excellent job raising awareness of kidney diseases in Greece and he is now one of our World Kidney Day Champions!
For our first post, I decided to share his story with you. I thought it would also give you some ideas for future World Kidney Day activities but, above all, I wish to spread his positive and dynamic spirit!
Nikos, 27, was born with some health issues that damaged his kidneys at an early age. He had to go through several surgeries and at the age of 19 he had to start haemodialysis. He doesn’t remember much of this part of his life that was filled with painful experiences: physical and psychological pain, a lot of medicines to take, long hours waiting for haemodialysis, not being able to go to school and being discriminated by other kids. “It is as if my brain suppressed all the bad memories” said Nikos. Fortunately, on the 5th of December 2008, with the help of his “angel mother” – as he likes to call her – he received a transplant. His mother donated one of her kidneys to him.
This operation literally changed his life. “It is like I was born again and I had a new life”. “When I received the kidney, I started realizing the severity of the situation and started appreciating the gift of life! My previous life was totally erased!” he said. The gift of life – as kidney transplantation is commonly known – completely transformed Nikos who decided to dedicate his life to help kidney patients get a better life.
In January 2009, Nikos and a friend of his were looking for an online Greek kidney patient group on but couldn’t find anything. “So, with my friend, we decided first to create a website to inform people about kidney transplant and share our experience”. On the 15th of January 2009, they created a webpage together with a Facebook group and a blog.
Following the success of their online presence, Nikos and his friend decided to start an online magazine called “Scripta Manent” which later on was renamed “Community Voice”. This time, their intention was more of creating something entertaining. They wanted to help kidney patients and their families escape gloomy news usually found in medical journals. “It is tiring to read all the times medical articles with sad news”. “We collect only positive stories”. In “Community Voice”, you can find poems, films, books suggestions, happy stories,… Nikos is a great example of how Greeks like to enjoy life. That is why he and his team decided to also put together some activities gathering kidney patients and their families and friends to eat, dance and exchange! As Nikos said: “in Greece, we know how to forget our problems and to have a nice time”.
Building on the great success of his efforts to increase awareness of kidney disease and transplantation, Nikos decided to start an official association – the Hellenic Community of Renal Patients and Transplant. The aim of the association is to inform the general public about kidney diseases, to improve the life of kidney patients and to provide moral support to them. The support part is very important to Nikos: “People send emails, they call us. We listen to them. They feel like they are not alone anymore, they have someone to talk to”. The people they want to reach are as much kidney transplant patients as those undergoing haemodialysis. They don’t want to make any separation: “in Greece, they are mostly separated but we need to work together to be stronger”.
The association has a busy schedule for 2016: plenty of activities aimed at raising awareness and culminating with World Kidney Day in March. As this year the World Kidney Day focus is “Kidney Diseases and Children: Act Early to Prevent It”, they are planning on having specials events in schools to inform parents and children.
Besides being administrator of the organisation, Nikos is currently studying to become an Occupational Therapist. When I asked him from where he has gotten all this energy, he told me: “from my mother”. But also from his family and friends. “Thank God, I had the love of my parents” he said.
All Nikos’ strength has been shown also during the World Game Transplant (WGT) in 2013 in South Africa. Nikos is not only a champion for World Kidney Day but he also won the silver medal as race walk athlete!
What I learnt from my conversation with Nikos and would like to share with you is the importance of enjoying life and sharing love with people around you. So, whatever happens, make sure to be there for the people close to you and never let the downsides of life take over your joy!
We wish Nikos and the team of the Hellenic Community of Renal Patients and Transplants a great success!
More info about the Hellenic Community of Renal Patients and Transplants:
Myriam (WKD Campaign Administrator)