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Life After Simultaneous Transplant – Gone Fishing

William Bruce shares his transformational journey getting a kidney and pancreas transplant, and how he is making the most out of his second chance at life.
Patient on fishing boat.
Getting back to the shore and back on the fishing boat was a motivator for Bruce through his simultaneous transplant recovery.

I had a simultaneous kidney and pancreas transplant at Jefferson on October 25, 2018.

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 23 years ago. At first, I managed my diabetes with medication, but I fell and broke my hip, transferred to insulin, and eventually developed renal disease. I lived with stage 4 kidney disease for about 10 years. It never got any better, never got any worse. Then all of a sudden, in May of 2017, it just bottomed out.

I was on dialysis for a year and three months. I didn’t do it at home, so I had to get up very early in the morning every other day; my treatment ran from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.

When you’re on dialysis, it’s some of the worst feelings you’ll ever have in your life. It just disrupts your whole lifestyle, almost like your life is on hold. If you’re planning a vacation, you have to make sure there’s a facility somewhere nearby where you can have the dialysis done. If you’re on a cruise you may have to be flown to a facility. You’re very limited as to what you can do.

Most days after dialysis, you come home and you just want to go to sleep, because it wears your body down. By the time you’re feeling better, it’s time to do it all over again.

After about a year and three months, I got a call from the Jefferson transplant team saying they had a possible donor. It was funny because I didn’t have much time to think about it. They called on Tuesday and told me about the possible donor. On Wednesday they called back and said to come in. It was good it happened like that, otherwise I may have had second thoughts about having it done.

The procedure took 10 hours. The idea behind a simultaneous kidney and pancreas transplant is to have the new pancreas generate insulin and take the heavy load off the kidney. I looked at it like buying tires; you never buy just one tire, you have to buy two. At least that was the case for me. My surgeon was Dr. Adam Frank and he was wonderful. I made him laugh from the time he met me to the time I left – I always had something funny to say.

I feel like I have a second chance at life – you just hope you do better than you did the first time.

I was at Jefferson for a week after my transplant surgery, and there were plenty of times when the doctors had me laughing as well. One day, a couple of the doctors came in to check on me after the surgery. One was looking at me, and looking at the name on the chart, and looking at me, and looking at the name. He went and got another doctor and said, “Excuse me, is this the man that had a kidney pancreas transplant?” The other doctor said, “Yeah, that’s him.” “Man, this guy looks better than me.”

Everybody was great, I had teams of doctors and nurses and they were all great. And I had a newspaper to read every morning with breakfast.

I recently marked the seven-month anniversary of my surgery – and I feel great. My sleeping pattern is better. Before the surgery, I used to take a nap every day. I seldom do that anymore.

I no longer have a need for dialysis or insulin – it’s almost like I’m back to normal. I can pretty much eat what I want, but I try to stick to a diabetic diet and watch my weight and blood pressure so this doesn’t reoccur.

I feel like I have a second chance at life – you just hope you do better than you did the first time. I have two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and I plan on being around to enjoy them for quite awhile.

I’m really looking forward to the summer and going down to the shore for a week. And I’m definitely looking forward to getting on the boat and doing some fishing this year. When I was on dialysis, I really couldn’t get into the water because you just don’t want the salt water getting around the access point that is used for the dialysis. I was also not allowed to lift anything over 25 pounds.

Now that I’m no longer on dialysis, I need to know if I can start lifting things over 25 pounds – in case I hook into something nice!

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Patient Perspectives