The Gift of Life
I am writing this brief article because I want to share my recent experience with a Pancreas alone transplant. My name in Christian and I am a 30 year old former diabetic. I can say this now since my recent pancreas alone transplant on August 8th, 2000 at the University of Maryland.
After having had diabetes for over fifteen years and some of its related complication, such as vision loss requiring multiple laser treatments, and terrible control of blood sugar levels, I decided to hop on the Internet and seek some emotional and educational support.
I entered a chat room at Childrenwithdiabetes.com and argued with a parent of a juvenile diabetic who couldn't seem to understand why I was looking for information about Pancreas alone transplants, when the only complications that I was experiencing really weren't that bad considering just how bad they could be after fifteen years of diabetes.
I left the room feeling angry and bitter. How could this guy argue with me over wanting to get a Pancreas transplant? He wasn't even a diabetic, and had never gone through the emotion and physical ups and downs that come with poor diabetic control.
The next day I received an E/mail from a Deb Butterfield who runs a diabetic web site (insulin-free.org). The gentleman that I had argued with the night before had sent Deb an e-mail about our conversation. Deb and I ended up having several conversations about transplants and her personal experiences with her own transplant.
After doing an extensive amount of research and self reflection, I decided that the Pancreas alone transplant was the right answer for me. Sure, I could have done a better job with my diabetic care. It seemed to be a lot easier when I was younger and still living at home and had mom and dad there to help me get through. I still miss a good home cooked meal.
After meeting with several doctors it was decided that I was a good candidate for the transplant. After a very long and tedious process of getting my insurance company to cover the transplant, I was approved and places on the organ waiting list. It took only two weeks and on August 8th, 2000 I got the call at 6:00am EST. When I heard the news I started to cry, both in fear and joy. I had to be at the hospital in a few hours, and boy did I have a lot on phone calls to make. My parents, friends and family, etc.
It has now been almost four weeks since my transplant and I am feeling great. My blood sugar levels and been perfect. It is really strange not having to take insulin shots anymore. Sure, I have to take a lot of other medications now, but to me the trade off is a simple choice that I would do again without question.
I want to mention just how grateful I am to the family of the organ donor. It is a very difficult thing that they have gone through and I think of them all every day. The choice they made has given me the opportunity to have a better quality of live and I will be forever grateful.
I would like to thank the web sites and all the people involved with my Pancreas transplant. A transplant may not be the right choice for everyone, but for me so far it has been the greatest experience in my life. Thank you for listening to my story, I hope that this will help.
July 2005 Update
I wanted to give everyone an update on my pancreas transplant that occurred almost five years ago in August of 2000. Both myself, and the transplant are doing fine. I continue to have perfect blood sugars and have had no secondary complications for any of the anti-rejection medications that I take. I continue to have vision problems for a year or so after the transplant but things have been stable now for quite some time.
Gone, are the day of low blood sugars, poor control, and passing out. Not being a diabetic anymore had changed my entire life. The blame and anger that I use to direct at my father for also being a diabetic have long disappeared. The concept of having being able to skip a meal and not having to always carry sweets with me was something that I grasped very quickly. I also enjoy being able to enjoy a dessert without having to worry about my sugar going through the roof.
I like to think that the transplant has really prevented me from having many of the secondary complications that diabetes can cause over the long tern even with good control. My father continues to struggle with his health and his diabetes. Over a year ago he had a heart attack and soon after suffered from kidney failure. He get dialysis three days a week and is completely drained afterwards, both mentally and physically. He was on a transplant until recently when he was diagnosed with lung cancer and had to have one of his lungs removed. He has to be cancer free for two years before he can get back on the transplant list again. That is a long time for a 75 years old diabetic in poor health.
I would like to think that if he had a pancreas transplant like I had he would have been spared many of these secondary complications. One can only wonder.
As I started in the first story I wrote about my transplant, I would do it again in a minute. When I was a diabetic I use to dream about not being one. Well thanks to my doctors at the University of Maryland, my donor and the people who supported my decision, my dream came true. One day we will find a cure for diabetes and transplants and insulin and transplants will all be a time of the past. I will tell my grandchildren stories about how treatments were in the old days and how people use to need shots on a daily basis. That day will come ... hopefully sooner than later.
Christian can be reached via e-mail at
Christianhobbis AT hotmail.com.
Published August 29, 2000
Updated July 22, 2005
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