Shipston man makes history as 1000th patient to receive pancreas transplant

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A Shipston man has made his mark in the history books after becoming the 1,000th person to receive a pancreas transplant at the Oxford Transplant Centre.

The Transplant Centre has become the first centre in Europe to perform 1,000 pancreas transplants and only the third worldwide, alongside the University of Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis and the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison in the Unites States

The man who helped them reach that milestone was Shipston resident Robert Bell, who back in November got the call to say a life-changing transplant may be available.

Robert had been a diabetic for 30 years, losing half of his right leg in 2011 to the devastating disease.

18 months ago Robert’s condition worsened and he had to receive regular dialysis treatment.

Robert said: “When I started to have dialysis 14 months ago I was told my kidneys were failing that I would need a transplant, it’s really not something you want to hear, I’d lost half my leg and part of my other foot to diabetes, going into hospital again was not something I was looking forward to.

“Then on the 11th of November I got a call asking me to come in because they had a possible transplant for me.

“It was the fourth time I’d been told they might have a suitable transplant and to be honest it did go through my mind that this one may not be right for me either.

“The whole process went really smoothly and the hospital have been absolutely amazing, they really keep an eye on you and make sure you’re OK.

“Before I had this transplant it was hideous really, I had to have dialysis three times per week and you feel exhausted, you just don’t have a life, it was awful.

“It’s been a massive change for me, I went to sleep on the 11th of November as a diabetic and I woke up on the 12th without diabetes, it’s like another life. It takes a little while to sink in, I don’t have diabetes anymore and I can choose to eat what I want, but I still largely keep to the diet I was on before the transplant. This should help me live a much longer, healthier life.

“I had no idea at the time that I was the 1,000th person to receive a transplant, I found out about eight weeks later. I was quite overwhelmed really, it’s a milestone and I guess I’m having my two minutes of fame.

“It’s only ten weeks since I had the operation, but I’m getting there, I just have to get a weekly check-up in Coventry now.”

Like many who have pancreas transplants, Robert also received new kidneys and is the latest to receive the operation in the 17 years since the centre started performing transplants.

The operation gives someone with diabetes a healthy insulin-producing pancreas, meaning they no longer require regular injections, while most like Robert are no longer dependent on dialysis.

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.”

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