27 May 2014

Sarah Cullen

Sarah Cullen - Kidneys For Life patient.

My life changed forever on 22 April 2008, the day I had a pancreas transplant.  I awoke at five to midnight and amazingly I had a working pancreas which for a Type 1 diabetic for over 34 years was more than amazing for me it was nothing short of a miracle!  I was no longer a diabetic, no more regular insulin injections, I was in a state of both disbelief and bliss.

After three weeks I was home after being treated like a piece of gold by the transplant team, it’s now 16 months on and I never cease to thrill when my blood sugar is normal, also it is hard to find the words to express the feeling of having no more injections or constantly checking my blood sugars and by far the best is to be able to go swimming and not have the worry of low blood sugar.

The lead up to this miraculous event started 2½ years previously with a conversation with Dr Davis, my diabetic specialist, when he asked me would I consider a pancreas transplant I said “consider it, I would bit your hand off!”  The reason for such an offer was as I had been a long term diabetic with reasonably good control, the diabetes had still caused me long term complications, which were neuropathy and automatic neuropathy which as long as I was a diabetic were never going to improve but only increase in severity as I get older …. Quite a bleak outlook and for that reason as I am sure you can understand is why I responded to Dr Davis in the way I did.

Next came ticking all the boxes, having the tests and making sure I was healthy enough for such a big operation yet ill enough to require it.  I was aware than when I had fulfilled all the criteria the next step would be to go on the transplant waiting list.  The day came and it was official, I was now on the list, all I had to do now was wait – oh, and never be away from a phone or more than one hours travelling distance from the MRI.

So I am on the list!  Every time the phone rang a thought would run through my mind that this could be the call I was waiting for, usually it was just friends calling for a chat.  Until the phone rang unusually early one morning at 5.30am to be exact, half asleep I answered, it was the call I had waited almost two years for.

I was on my way, I arrived at the hospital in record time, less than half an hour from hanging up the phone.  My hospital bag which has been packed with all the things that were on the list the hospital gave me and sat patiently waiting just like me for all this time and was now on the move too!

When I arrived on Ward 10 I was given a bed and was made aware that it still wasn’t definite that I would be the recipient of the pancreas as there were still a number of cross matches to check and for this reason they had a number two patient who may receive the pancreas if my cross matches were not suitable.   All I kept thinking over and over was please let it be me.  The news came ….. it was going to ME.  That brings me back to how my life changed in that I am free from diabetes, since the transplant my energy levels are much better and I can now explore my first love, which is art.  Hypos (low blood sugars) are a thing of the past, I can enjoy my family more and each day I am getting stronger.

I will be forever grateful to the transplant surgeons, Ward 10 and all those involved in the follow up care but most of all to my donor who has given me my non-diabetic life back. Thank you

Sarah Cullen – pancreas-only transplant patient.