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Recipient Stories

I can eat a cupcake!

ABOVE: Jim Albert, kidney pancreas recipient, and his wife, Anita.

I hope you have the wrong patient! That was what was going through my mind as two doctors told me that I needed a transplant. The only thing I knew about transplants is that I didn’t want one.

My story started on February 17, 1982 when I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of 12.

The first year was a big lifestyle change consisting of many shots and watching what I ate. This was all ok until I reached high school. There I had to deal with being different because I couldn’t eat sweets or junk food like the other kids.

After high school I did not go to college because I didn’t want to waste the time or money on an education that I wasn’t going to be able to use. I didn’t think I would live to the age of 30.

I had started working when I noticed pain running from my back to my feet. It was the first stage of diabetic neuropathy. After fighting this painful problem and many trips to the doctor they were able to get the pain to stop after four years.

In 1996, one week before I was to get married, my soon to be wife found me at work crying because our blood tests had come back and it showed that I was in the beginning stages of kidney disease. After assuring her that everything was going to be OK we got married and a year later moved away to another state.

The diabetic neuropathy continued to take it’s course and I began to notice double vision in my eyes. I also went into congestive heart failure and was admitted to the hospital. During my 10 day stay in the hospital they diagnosed me with kidney failure. That is when the doctors told me I would need a transplant.

My wife and I moved back home with my parents to wait for a transplant – a wait that would last for three years.

Then, on December 31, 2000, I received the call that would completely change my life. When they called and I drove to the hospital my mind was racing – I couldn’t believe that soon I would have no more shots, no episodes of low blood sugars, and finally I would be able to eat a cupcake.

After the surgery I thought a lot about my donor’s family and wrote a letter to thank them for the decision they made. Every day I wake up and thank them for the second chance at life they gave me. Their decision not only changed my life, but also my wife’s and my families lives.

Now I am going to college and my wife and I have our own house. Children are in the future.

This life, which is taken for granted by many people, would not be possible had it not been for th

e decision of a family at the worst time in their lives to help someone they didn’t even know. They said yes to the gift of organ donation – which was truly my gift of life!

Thank you!

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