Meeting the First Man in the UK to have an Islet Transplant - President of Diabetes UK Richard Lane OBE

Attending the Diabetes UK Cymru Volunteer conference was an experience full of the honour of meeting inspirational people. But meeting this particular person is something that will stay in my mind for a long time. Richard Lane OBE is the President of the charity Diabetes UK, but what’s more he is also the first man in the UK with insulin dependent Type 1 diabetes to have come off insulin injections- as a result of having had an islet cell transplant. 

When I put the news on Facebook and Twitter that I’d met the inspirational man, my friends and family who have been on my diabetes journey with me had a good understanding of what something like this would mean- being insulin free. But for those of us who live with the insulin dependent version of the condition day in day out, well the thought sends shivers down my spine. It’s almost too much to imagine being insulin free, but this man did it! All be it for a year, but he did it and it was brilliant to be able to hear his phenomenal story. The pancreas contains many islet cells that in turn contain beta cells and it's those that create the hormone insulin. And in people with diabetes these cells were destroyed by our own bodies because they were recognised as foreign bodies, opposed to the integral cells that they are. So if you’re able to receive a transplant for these, some of the destruction is set right and you stand a better chance of managing your diabetes.

Richard Lane OBE told us that he was the first person in the UK to come off insulin having had an islet cell transplant before he became the President of Diabetes UK. He got involved with the trial because his consultant Stephanie Amiel who is a world leader in her field at King's College London, put him forward. After having numerous severe hypos, one even resulting in a terrifying car crash because of his 'brittle' diabetes Richard was ready to try a new treatment. A term used to describe a type of diabetes where blood sugars appear to change quickly at will and without warning. The process of transplantation is based on having a matching blood type with the donor. So after being approved for the trial the wait begins in finding a matching donor candidate.  When one is found the procedure is conducted under anaesthetic and the cells were injected into the liver. This process had to be repeated three times for one treatment to be complete. Every time he had a transplant Richard recalled that he was able to cut his insulin requirements by a third!

Each transplant lasted 5 years so now Richard is back on an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor. And because of this milestone in diabetes history he was asked to become the President of the diabetes organisation. I’ve always found that for me, having diabetes is something that I need to take a day at a time. Trying not to count down the clock until a cure is found, but doing all I can to make sure it happens. But meeting Richard Lane OBE gave me a lot of hope that steps towards a cure are actually be taken and drawing us closer to a cure.


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My blog takes you through a daily look at sport, diabetes and everything in between. As an athlete that lives with type 1 diabetes I want to let you into news, views and all that is important to both of my passions.

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