A Scottish woman is looking forward to living her life after receiving a kidney and pancreas transplant.

Charlene Duthie, from Longside, Aberdeenshire, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was two years old. Charlene struggled with diabetes management and developed kidney disease relatively early in life.

Her kidneys were close to failing and so a kidney transplant was needed. When kidney transplants are needed in type 1 diabetes, it can be beneficial to have a pancreas transplant at the same time.

In Charlene’s case, it was judged that a pancreas transplant would be beneficial, and she was offered the option.

Pancreas transplants are a relatively rare procedure and are usually only considered for people with insulin dependent diabetes who also have severe kidney disease or suffer from regular episodes of severe hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood glucose levels).

The transplants have achieved two key outcomes. The kidney transplant has substantially improved Charlene’s kidney function and the pancreas transplant currently manages her type 1 diabetes without the need for injections or blood glucose tests.

Speaking to the Evening Express newspaper, Charlene said: “I’m really looking forward to turning 36 now, because I’ll just be able to enjoy it and not have to worry about taking insulin or checking my blood sugar levels.”

She said: “Beforehand my kidneys were functioning at 15% but now they are back up to 60%.”

Charlene was on the transplant list for 20 months and had to be ready to travel to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary at very short notice.

The mother of one said: “I had to go to sleep every night with my mobile on loudspeaker and a bag packed ready to go. I had my mum on speed dial as well so neither of us slept very well.

“I no longer have diabetes because the transplant was successful. It’s been life-changing and I’ve got so much of my energy back.”

While the transplant helps Charlene to feel as though she no longer has type 1 diabetes, the disease is still present but can be held back by taking immunosuppressant medication. The medication helps to hold back the autoimmune attack, however, it can leave people more at risk of certain infections.

People who have had pancreas transplants can go a number of years without needing to take insulin. It is not a complete cure, but it can present a life-changing treatment for many.

“I’m a single parent so it’s been really difficult for my son Lewis, who is only 15, because he’s had to be more of a carer than a child.”

Charlene said she has fully recovered, and her body has started making insulin. She is urging people to become organ donors so they can help others in similar situations.

She said: “My sister and I have both signed up to become organ donors because it’s a really important thing to do. I wouldn’t have been on such a long waiting list if everyone was a donor.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Blood and Transplant said: “There are currently more than 6,000 people in the UK in need of an organ transplant and more than 300 patients are waiting for a lung transplant.

“We urge people to register their organ donation decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and ensure they tell their families.

“The law around organ donation is changing in England and Scotland next year and families will still be approached before organ donation goes ahead.

“We know families find the organ donation conversation with our nurses much easier if they already know what their relative wanted. This conversation can save lives.”


Picture credit: Charlene Duthie / Evening Express

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