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Claudia's Story

After successful transplants, I was finally free from diabetes.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) when I was nine years old. Looking back, I remember always being thirsty, having little appetite and waking up often in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. While I was fortunate to not require insulin until the age of 12, having T1D was a burden and changed my life. 

Although I am not the type of person who panics, I am not routine-oriented either, so I struggled with my diabetes management at the beginning. I experienced hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia and had to be rushed to the hospital at times. As the oldest of five siblings, I sensed my brothers and sisters believed I was getting more attention from my parents some days. However, they all did their best to support me and when we weren’t playing basketball or soccer together, we were at summer camps or Girl Guides. School was another story. I was often singled out by the kids because I was the only one who had T1D. There was lots of peer pressure, and everything went downhill in my teens. All I wanted was to eat chocolate cake with everyone else and NOT be different. 

In my twenties, I neglected my condition and my immune system started crashing. I wouldn’t show up for blood tests and I contracted the flu and bronchitis, along with a kidney infection that saw me hospitalized. I also suffered from anorexia. Then one day I started having headaches near my neck. And I woke up to legs so swollen that I couldn’t move. I was taken to the hospital where I was diagnosed with renal insufficiency due to complications from T1D. The doctors informed me that my kidney function was at 15-20% and I was prescribed medications. My mindset was to remain active; therefore, I decided on a night dialysis schedule so I could still go to school and work. The treatments began four months later and continued for about a year. I was told I had a chance at getting a transplant. My mother decided to undergo compatibility testing to see if she could be a donor. A year later, at the age of 26, I received the gift of life – a ‘new’ kidney from my Mom, my superhero. 

Soon I was embarking on a new journey that began with a one-month stay at a convalescent home for transplant recipients. Given my weakened immune system, I got sick often at first and also caught shingles. It would be two years before my body would be fully healed and I would be strong enough to be placed on a transplant waiting list for a pancreas. I will never forget that night in July when the call came in that an organ was available. There are no words to describe the joy that I felt. 

The operation was a success, but I suffered more complications than I did with my kidney transplant.  Yet I was finally free… free from diabetes, free from finger pricking, free from carrying juice boxes and candies, free from hypoglycemic episodes. 

Today I am in my mid-30s and making plans to have a baby. Each morning, I wake up and count my blessings, including the continued support of my family and friends. Throughout my life, I never wanted people to pity me – I just wanted them to help me feel normal because I felt different. While I experienced some guilt after both transplants, I worked on acceptance by telling myself that the organs were now mine and were there to help me live well again. To me, a healthy attitude meant my body would be less likely to reject my ‘new’ kidney and pancreas. And while it took time to arrive there psychologically, I am an optimist who never stopped believing.

Too many Canadians have their lives cut short by diabetic kidney disease. Donate now. Let’s end diabetic kidney disease.