Helly's Kidney Journey


My Journey


In the summer of 2019, I would travel to northern Manitoba to share and teach music. Our plan was to visit Pimicikamak for the summer and visit surrounding communities. On July 11, 2019 my whole life changed. One night, I had a difficult time breathing, it was hard to hold in or catch a breath. My wife had noticed a change in my health, but I failed to see the signs due to my own neglect. It required an emergency visit to the nursing station. The nursing station ran tests a few days prior, because I took my daughter in for an allergy reaction to medication, I felt feverish and was coughing a lot. There were instances where I would vomit as well. That night when I went for that emergency visit, I can remember the words clearly and the doctor said, “We are looking at Stage 5 Kidney Failure”. I remember it made me feel numb, and unclear because I felt fine, and those symptoms seemed minor like I was having a flu. I was given medication and kept over night, and then released in the community. 

The next day, everything happened so fast. I could see the panic and concern in my wife, her relatives the doctor and nurses. It began to set in that this was something very serious. I just had to mentally absorb that this was me this was happening to, which was a harsh dose of reality. The plan was to leave the community via medivac but due to technical issues the plane could not come. My wife and I took the risk and ventured the 8-hour drive back to Winnipeg, where I would visit the Seven Oaks Hospital upon my arrival.

When I was 19, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. My sugar would get extremely high. Diabetes is a disease that affects the way your body produces sugar (glucose) which is vital to your health. There are high rates of this disease among our Indigenous People and our communities, which is why I want to help create awareness. I was suffering from Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), which comes in stages and is a complication due to diabetes. My body eventually grew use to the symptoms and adjusted as to why those minor symptoms seems like a flu. The coughing was my lungs filling with fluid because my kidneys couldn't excess waste. If you are young and diagnosed with this, it’s very important to think about maintaining your health, those would be my words to share with you. I neglected my health after the diabetes diagnoses, abused alcohol and overcame an addiction to medication. I am sober 4 years now and began to maintain my health as I got older. CKD meant that my health levels were at all high levels, and my body adjusted to these levels. It was explained to me that I was a ticking time bomb ready to go off. My kidneys only functioned at 15%, then dropped to 7%, then I was introduced to dialysis. We're glad we caught on when we did, we learned the importance of good healthy natural meals that you can maintain while on low kidney function.

On November 21st, I had a catheter inserted in my abdomen, and suffered a slight complication which required an emergency hospital stay. With the support of the community we have in Winnipeg, we got through it. Big shout out to the Kidney Kokoms. We have support from networks that we are grateful for. I currently am a peritoneal dialysis patient. Peritoneal dialysis (PD) means that the catheter inserted helps remove excess fluid, corrects electrolyte problems and removes the toxins from my body that my kidneys can no longer do. The PD process allows me to be more mobile and do the treatment on my own with the support of my family. There were some huge adjustments and changes, some that were scary that we are overcoming and coping with. I wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of my wife and my kids. My next step is a kidney transplant in the future. I am an O- which makes my blood type rare and it puts me on a waiting list for up to 8-10 years. Through a donation, I will be allowed to live a normal life again. 

This disease taught me a lot about our bodies and mental health. I participate in discussions and have talked with others who are new to this disease. I would like to take opportunities to share my experience with others, so they don’t feel alone. My goal is to create awareness about Diabetes and encourage healthier choices. This disease does not define you and you can carry on with life again. I still can travel and carry on with my music with the right planning. The doctors and the nephrologist team at the Seven Oaks Hospital are so supportive and feel I’m in the right hands. I will have more updates as the journey keeps going and update you as much as possible as the processes happen. The brighter future lies ahead and this Spring I begin transplant testing. I am also joining the Can-SOLVE CKD network in its effort to carry out and promote patient-oriented research to improve the lives of people living with kidney disease. If you would like to support my family through this process, download and share our music. 




CBC Indigenous: Cree rapper Hellnback opens up about kidney disease diagnosis

At 19, he was told he had Type 2 diabetes but 'As a teenager you... just kind of brush it off'

CBC Unreserved: 'Go get yourself checked': Cree rapper Hellnback recovering from kidney disease

Last summer, Karmen Omeasoo, who goes by the rapper name Hellnback, received a scary diagnosis. He had stage five kidney disease, and his kidney was only functioning at 15 per cent.