After 30 tumultuous years of living with type 1 diabetes, I was faced with end stage renal disease and the need to make some crucial decisions on dialysis and/or transplant. While on peritoneal dialysis I decided to move forth with a living donor kidney transplant, provided that a suitable donor could be found.
My entire family and my partner agreed to be tested to see if they might be potential matches for a new kidney. This process included multiple blood tests, some needing 13 tubes of blood, and anonymous results. 9 months later, my older sister was identified as the perfect match and we proceeded.
Despite some significant complications, I was finally off of dialysis with a perfectly functioning kidney and put on the list for a pancreas transplant so that the new kidney would remain healthy and free from the ravages of T1D. Being off of a nightly dialysis machine and not having toxins build up in the blood was amazing enough, but even more was to come.
A year and a half later I got the call. It is an amazing feeling to be getting ready for work and receiving a call out of the blue to ask if you are ready, at that very moment, to have another major surgery. I had already gotten a call a few weeks prior, drove in to the hospital and went through admission paperwork, only to find out hours later that my b-cells were not compatible with the donor’s and I was sent home. That was emotionally difficult and made me think that this time would be the same. It wasn’t. The donor was a perfect match and, despite getting there at 7:30 in the morning, the “it’s a go” moment happened at 3:30 in the afternoon. Yikes!
Finally, despite a total of three serious complications, I was now diabetes free for the first time in 30 years. Wow! The trade off was immunosuppressant medication for life, which is hard for someone like me who works in a health care setting with sick patients. however, the choice was a no brainer. The immunosuppressant medication is so worth it. Although I had a 3-month issue with a severe case of CMV from the donor pancreas, and IV meds for that entire time, it was still easier than the day-to-day life with T1D. To be able to have “euglycemia” day in and day out is still, to this day, surreal and a dream come true.
Sure, I had difficulties getting here but I would do it all over again. I feel both cured and blessed. Having two new organs from two separate individuals, one alive, one deceased, is beyond comprehension and a true gift of life. These two people are my heroes.
By Christine Horn