Shipston man says he feels 'brand new' after becoming Oxford's 1000th pancreas transplant

A Shipston on Stour man has become the 1000th person to receive a pancreas transplant at the Oxford Transplant Centre.

Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 4:34 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 4:35 pm
Robert Bell, the 1000th pancreas transplant patient at the Oxford Transplant Centre
Robert Bell, the 1000th pancreas transplant patient at the Oxford Transplant Centre

Doctors at the unit, at the Churchill Hospital, are the first in the UK and Europe to perform 1,000 pancreas transplants, reaching the milestone in November last year when they performed a kidney and pancreas transplant on Robert Bell of Shipston.

Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUH) said the accomplishment came 17 years after the first procedure was performed in Oxford. The operation gives someone with diabetes a healthy insulin-producing pancreas.

Mr Bell never expected to be a milestone - he just wanted to feel better and stop feeling exhausted all the time.

His simultaneous kidney-pancreas (SPK) transplant came after an 18-month wait on the organ donation list. Mr Bell was Type 1 diabetic for 30 years and had half of his right leg amputated in 2011 as the condition took its toll on his quality of life.

He said: “Before my operation, I was so tired I couldn’t even walk down the road to the shop. I didn’t know what to expect from the transplant, but I came out of it with a new life - it’s unbelievable.

“As the days went by I felt better and better and I can now do more general day-to-day activities, as well as things around the home that I could not before.

“I feel absolutely brand new, which makes me so happy. It’s amazing what the operation and the staff at the Oxford Transplant Centre have done for me. The team were brilliant, and I will never forget when they told me that I am no longer diabetic and I don’t need my injections - it’s life changing.”

The Oxford Transplant Centre is the third in the world to reach the 1,000 landmark after the University of Minnesota Hospital, Minneapolis and University of Wisconsin Hospital, Madison in the Unites States.

Sanjay Sinha, Pancreas Transplant Lead at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is a remarkable achievement for the Oxford Transplant Centre and we are very grateful to our donors and the donor families.

“The accomplishment is a testament to the hard work put in by the multidisciplinary team in Oxford which includes surgeons, physicians, anaesthetists, intensive care physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians and physiotherapists.”

The operation, often done in conjunction with a kidney transplant, is considered for patients with Type 1 diabetes and some patients with Type 2 diabetes as a consequence of their condition.

A successful transplant can help patients to achieve normal blood sugar levels and means they will no longer need to inject insulin. It also means that patients are no longer dependent on dialysis, their quality of life is improved and their life expectancy is increased.

There has been a rapid increase in the number of pancreas transplants worldwide since the early 1990s. The Oxford Transplant Centre currently performs 50 to 70 of these transplants a year and is one of the busiest centres in the world.

In the UK, the number of simultaneous kidney-pancreas (SPK) transplants has increased significantly since the procedure was first funded by the NHS in 2004. Of the 1,000 pancreas transplants to take place at the Trust, more than 800 of them have been SPK procedures.

Another patient, Richard Jarrett, was on the waiting list for two years before undergoing his SPK transplant in 2018.

The 66-year-old from Shropshire was type 1 diabetic for 50 years and suffered acute kidney failure in 2001. Before the operation, he could sleep for 20 hours a day.

Mr Jarrett said: “The transplant without a doubt saved my life. It gave me a life that I hadn’t had for so long.

“I was about to start dialysis when I got the call about a potential match. Dialysis keeps you alive but doesn’t give you a life. This is why organ donation is such an important topic.”

“Throughout the process we were shown so much care, tenderness, and kindness by each and every member of staff," he said.

In addition to the 1,000th pancreas transplant, the Oxford Transplant Centre also celebrated its 5,000th transplant and its 50th intestinal transplant in 2019.