THE JOY OF A TRANSPLANT

by a kidney-pancreas recipient

Sometimes I wish that everyone would need a transplant, so they could experience the joy and the appreciation of life that it has given me. We all go through life taking many, many things for granted and we don't miss the water until the well runs dry, or in my case until the kidneys stopped working.

I find myself day dreaming in amazement about everything that happened, how sick I was, how good I feel now, my looks, my attitude, my appreciation of what was done, the fact that I don't have to take insulin or worry about eating on time, etc., etc.

Getting a kidney and pancreas transplant ended my 38 years taking insulin as a diabetic. The diabetes was at a point where I could not control it any longer and it was causing more and more complications. I picture myself walking in a tunnel which was getting narrower and darker as time went on. The transplant was a light at the end of the tunnel for me.

The wait for a donor wasn't easy; doing hemodialysis is NOT a pleasant experience. I was getting sicker and weaker as time passed. It was an emotional rollercoaster for me and my family. I was admitted to the hospital and scheduled for surgery four times. Each time, though, surgery was cancelled because the donor's organs where not acceptable for one reason or another. I look back now and say: "Thank God for unanswered prayers" for if they had transplanted one of those organs, it would have compounded my problems.

During this waiting period my motto was (and still is) "keep the faith" for I realize there was no alternative, and without faith there is nothing.

My surgery went smoothly. I remember being wheeled into the pre-op room and given a shot. The next thing I remember was looking at the clock: it was 9 o'clock, and I said to myself "I'm alive." The operation was a success; the kidney starting working right away, along with the pancreas.

The next day I was sore and hurting from the surgery. Soon, they had me up taking some steps. A few days later they took the IV's and other tubes out; after that I really started to feel much better. The transplant took place on a Monday and I went home 13 days later, on a Saturday. I didn't get many get well cards most of the cards were congratulation cards, as if I just had a baby.

A month later I was back in the hospital with a rejection episode. This time I was in for 12 days. They assured me that a new drug called "OKT3" would help. It did, but I was scared. Was I going to lose the organs? The treatment was ten injections: one each day for ten days. I remember the first few times they administered the OKT3 they hooked me up to a heart monitor, gave me oxygen, had two doctors in the room and said "This could make you sick; you may get the chills, fever, shakes, nausea, diarrhea, etc., etc." My pulse rate went up to 150 and it all happened at once. Everything they told me could happen did happen. But it stopped the rejection, and I have not had a problem since.

My doctors and all the members of the transplant team should sleep well at night knowing they make a fantastic difference in another person's life. There are very few people who have such an opportunity.

My 38 years of fighting diabetes left many battle scars on me. I still have problems due to the neuropathy (nerve damage) from the diabetes and dialysis. I "keep the faith" and hope that maybe the nerves will rebuild themselves, but only time will tell. This lifestyle is so much better than doing dialysis and trying to cope with diabetes. I had forgotten how it is to feel healthy and well.

Since the transplant in May of 1993, a day never goes by without my being grateful for it all. It has been the most unforgettable adventure of my life.

I consider myself to be very lucky for I have a loving wife, two wonderful kids, a beautiful granddaughter and a person I will never meet who saved my life, MY DONOR. God bless that person and that persons family. We will never forget the wonderful gift given to me.

Keep the faith.

Ex-Diabetic........Jim Appel in New Jersey