Meet Terran “Spanky” Keewatin. Spanky is a resident of Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, which is located approximately an hour and a half northwest of Saskatoon.
Spanky is a band councilor on Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. He resides there with members of his family.
Spanky has been on hemodialysis for five years, and has travelled to Saskatoon three times a week to receive life-sustaining dialysis treatments. To put this in perspective, that equates to 156 trips, and over 33,000 kilometers per year.
Spanky has now started a new journey in his dialysis therapy. He is currently training to perform Home Hemodialysis. He will be the first patient residing on a First Nation in the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s Home Hemodialysis Program based in Saskatoon, which covers the northern half of Saskatchewan.
Spanky was asked how kidney disease has affected his life: “Having kidney disease opened my eyes to the importance of health. My family and I started looking at our own health and how to adapt. My family has experienced health issues related to smoking, diabetes and heart disease but we had been unaware of kidney disease."
Spanky first learned he had kidney disease after completing his yearly physical exam and bloodwork. He was referred to a nephrologist in Saskatoon and one year later started dialysis. He had expected dialysis, but the reality of having to start the treatment felt like a slap in the face.
“Kidney disease taught me to take better care of myself,” he noted.
What has helped him to cope with kidney disease?
His answer: His First Nations culture and how “the beauty of doing right and walking the right path through the eyes of our Creator” has given him strength.
“I was also blessed to be raised by two strong women, my mother and grandmother."
He spoke of the strong family support he receives and how their messages of “keep on going” and “don’t give up” gave him strength and were the reason he has not missed a dialysis treatment in five years. Spanky believes being mentally strong has allowed him to cope with this disease, stating that “You ultimately need to want a better life and to continue to a better life.”
What has it been like to participate in an intensive training program during a pandemic? His answer? How easy it is to come in contact with germs.
“I come here and constantly wash my hands and use hand sanitizer every time I touch something and wear a mask.” He does it to protect himself and others.
How does it feel to be the first patient in our program residing on a First Nation to perform home hemodialysis?
“I feel it is a big, bright door opening for First Nations people and shows that we can do a good job of caring for our own people in their own community. I am blessed to be part of a community that has embraced this.”
What does living well with kidney disease mean to him?
“For me it means living life and following a path, no matter the obstacle, to a better quality of life.”