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Joanie Gets Her Freedom Back After a Life-Saving Pancreas Transplant

Joanie went from needing to check her blood sugar every three hours to the freedom of hiking, biking and spending time with her family with ease.

As an insulin-dependent diabetic for 19 years, Joanie’s life revolved around the need to check her blood sugar levels every 3 hours – day and night.

She lived in constant fear of having episodes of uncontrolled low blood sugars which could cause her to become disoriented and confused.

At its worst, Joanie was checking her numbers 11 times a day and still having uncontrolled episodes. She recalls one such episode, “my daughter was home from college and sitting at our kitchen table. I went in to talk with her, but when I sat down at the table I suddenly couldn’t form words and couldn’t say anything! She went to get her dad, and they had me drink a glass of orange juice. When my brain was working again from finally getting enough sugar, I realized what happened and felt terrible. Imagine having your child need to take care of you – it is very humbling and humiliating.” 

It wasn’t long after this incident that Joanie was placed on the transplant waiting list, in need of a new pancreas to save her life.  

In the summer of 2010, Joanie’s life was transformed with that life-saving transplant. Since that time, Joanie hasn’t had a drop of insulin and has been able to resume her life without fear of having episodes of low blood sugar she can’t control.  

Joanie Today 

More than 10 years since her transplant, Joanie says that there is not a day that goes by where she doesn’t think of her donor and thank them for the gift of life she was given: “My donor has continued to open new avenues of adventure for me. I have been able to go on camping trips to see the Sequoias, Jasper & Banff Canadian Parks, as well as Glacier & Acadia National Parks. Hikes and mountain biking in these areas is possible only because of the gift of my pancreas!” 

Yet, it is the everyday things and time spent with family that Joanie is especially grateful for. 

Because of her pancreas transplant, Joanie no longer needs to wake up in the middle of the night to check her blood sugar levels and now spends her days feeling alert and well-rested. She is able to run errands and help with tasks around the house without needing constant supervision. And most importantly, because of transplant Joanie is now able to spend quality time with her grandchildren without the worry of experiencing a low glucose episode. She can pick them up from daycare, go out for a treat, have sleepovers, and even take them on their own hiking adventures.  

Joanie states, “We live in a country where freedom is highly valued. The gift of donation has given me my freedom back! I never appreciated the true meaning of freedom until my illness stole it from me. Thanks to my donor, I have real freedom to live my life as productively as I can!”