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Alley's Story

"Looking back, there were hints of the problems to come."
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was five years old, on my mother’s birthday. It has been quite a journey since then. I was lucky to have an exceptionally supportive family who didn’t treat diabetes as if it were this sensitive thing. It was a part of my life, and we were going to find ways to deal with it. 

I had a normal childhood, and was open about having diabetes with my friends and family. At one point, I became the spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, quite literally the poster child for type 1 diabetes. Complications from the disease were talked about, but I never thought they would happen to me. I believed I had everything under control. What I wasn’t aware of, was that diabetes was slowly eating away at my kidneys. 

Looking back, there were hints of the problems to come. My ankles started to swell, but I thought it was a side effect of working on the 66th floor of an office tower and being on an airplane every month. In November 2018, I was on a call with a friend when I started having trouble breathing. I called an ambulance, and doctors told me in the hospital that my blood pressure had spiked to dangerous levels. I was on the brink of having a heart attack and my kidneys were failing. 

The news was devastating and I was scared.  I didn’t know anyone in their early thirties who had kidney failure, let alone was going to need a dual organ transplant. I started dialysis, and met a community of people who were going through a similar situation and holding onto hope.  And I think hope is the undercurrent of all of this. Hope is so important. 

I had three calls to come into the hospital for a transplant, and each time there was an issue and the surgery couldn’t go ahead.  It hits you in the gut. Then, this May I got another call, and I had a better feeling about it. I got the sense that this time it would work out. 

On May 5, exactly 30 years after I was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I received a kidney and pancreas transplant. Everything went well and am now recovering at home. The surgery has saved my life. I have a new sense of freedom and am looking forward to the years ahead.

I think about my donor every single day, and I am incredibly thankful and grateful for their gift.