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Islets of dreams

By Mary

My journey towards islet transplantation began over 35 years ago after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. After years of five insulin injections daily my condition deteriorated and I began to lose 'hypo' awareness.

I lived and worked as a classroom teacher with the constant fear of a major 'hypo'. There have been many times when my husband, Kerry, needed to inject me with glucogen to raise my blood sugar levels as I was either unconscious or unable to treat myself for a severe 'hypo'. I lost my self confidence and was afraid to undertake everyday chores.

Five years ago my doctor advised me to go on the insulin pump. Hypo awareness returned but this was short lived. During a visit to my endocrinologist he spoke of a new research program, islet transplantation, and thought I may be a good candidate for the program. (Islets are the cells in your pancreas which produce insulin.)

For two and a half years I underwent extensive tests and my declining confidence and frequent 'hypos' led me to retire from teaching.

In 2010 I received the call for South Australia's first islet transplant.

My life post transplant has changed in many ways, I can now confidently say 'I have a life.' Within days and weeks of the operation my blood sugars were within the normal range, hypo awareness had returned and my pump had been removed. Blood sugars were controlled by one injection of insulin per day.

Six months after the first transplant I underwent the second. Two months later I became free of daily insulin injections. My confidence has returned and I am back teaching - 'hypo free'.

My new life would not have been possible without the unselfish generosity of my donors and their families. They made a heart wrenching decision to give a perfect stranger a chance of life only dreamed about and because of their generosity the dream has come true for myself and my family.