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Perspectives - Karen, My Life Changing Transplants


Karen Manncropped2

My Life changing kidney/pancreas transplant

By Karen Mann

My name is Karen Mann and I am 52 years old.
At the age of 18 I was diagnosed with type one diabetes which meant I would have to inject myself with insulin 3 times a day. The doctors told me when I was diagnosed that in 20-25 years I would be like to have complications associated with my diabetes. Naturally when you’re that age you can’t think that far ahead.

At the age of 20 I got married and we had our first child when I was 23. The doctors had to keep a close eye on me and I had to go for a check up every 2 weeks. The blood pressure was monitored very carefully and the blood sugar levels too. I was very good at managing my diabetes during pregnancy with obvious concerns for my unborn child. As often the case with diabetic mums I had a caesarean section. When I was 30 I had my second child. This time I was having a lot of trouble with my eyes and had to undergo a lot of laser treatment to stop the bleeding at the back of my eyes.  I also had a lot of trouble with my feet – specifically  my toe nails – which meant frequent visits to the chiropodist

In 2000 I began to have check up for my kidney function as I was getting very tired very quickly, was being sick constantly, was finding it difficult to walk and was experiencing constant lethargy as well as putting on a lot of weight. I was told that I only had 15% kidney function left and that this low level of function was deteriorating very rapidly. By this time I had to leave work. In 2001 I was put onto dialysis.

This was a process that meant I had to go to the hospital 3 times a week for a 4 hour session of dialysis. During this time I was constantly sick, had black outs and lots of Hypos without any warning at all. Dialysis was very unpleasant for me. Once my session was over my blood pressure was frequently so low that I would have to wait on average of 30 minutes for this to normalise.  I did not pass urine for the whole time whilst I was dialysing.  This went on for a very long 2 years. Dialysis causes lots of other problems too like pressure on your heart.

Then on May 3rd 2004 I was put onto the transplant list which was the best news ever.  Then, shortly after this on 1st June 2004 I received a call from the Transplant co-coordinators to tell me that they had got a a possible kidney and pancreas match for me. After a very long checking process to make sure I was the right person for these organs I was taken for my operation. My life was now going to change thanks to my donor.

My surgeon said that the transplant had been successful and the organs began to work straight away. Following rehabilitation I have to take approximately 36 tablets a day but this is better than having to go to dialysis 3 times a week.  It completely changed the quality of my life. I was very lucky that my donor had told her family that this was what her wishes were.  My donor was a young 20 year old girl. This transplant has given me the chance of life that I would never have had otherwise and I don’t think that I would still have been on this earth if I had not had this transplant.

No more injections for my diabetes, no more dialysis and I can eat and drink whatever I want without any restrictions. I was also passing urine once again. Subsequently I have had to have a heart valve replaced, had a cataract operation and now awaiting an operation on my eye as I have a detached retina and vitreous haemorrhage.

Having the transplant has meant that I can spend quality life with my family and I am here to see my children grow up from young girls to young ladies. I cannot even express my gratitude to the donor and her family as well as the NHS and the skills of those involved in the process. I have been transplanted for almost 12 years now and I am grateful for every day I that I have been given a Gift that is priceless.

It would be an immense improvement if we could tackle the obstacles blocking the way of more transplants being carried out and change the process so that the wishes of those that wish to donate are not impeded by a second level of decision making by family members in circumstances where someone has already expressed their wishes as donors.