A 36-year-old King’s Lynn woman who underwent a double transplant is urging people talk to their loved ones about organ donation.
Jen Napolitano received a pancreas and kidney transplant at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge in May 2019.
Her kidneys had been functioning below 20 per cent due to complications related to type one diabetes, which she was diagnosed with aged 16.
Doctors suggested Mrs Napolitano, a graphic designer, go on the transplant waiting list or face the rest of her life on kidney dialysis. They also said a pancreas transplant would help control the diabetes.
She said: “I didn’t see this coming on the horizon, I only thought transplants were for people who were dying.
“But, I was getting worse, I had severe anaemia, high blood pressure, water retention and was so tired and always cold. I had forgotten what it was like to feel normal.”
Five weeks later, Mrs Napolitano was shocked to receive a call from the Addenbrooke’s transplant team to say they had found a match.
“I had expected to be on the list for months,” she said. “I was a bag of nerves. The benefits were incredible, but it was one in 50 chance I wouldn’t make it. Signing on that dotted line was so scary.”
Later that day, at 10pm, surgeons began the marathon 14-hour transplant operation while Mrs Napolitano’s husband Charles, 42, was left waiting on tenterhooks.
The following day, she had been moved to intensive care and then the high dependency unit a few days later.
The pancreas started working straightaway but her kidney was “asleep” for four days, which left Mrs Napolitano gaining 14 kilos of water.
“I felt like I had been hit like a bus, I felt like I was dying and I even said to the consultant, had I made a mistake? The consultant said it was going to be a tough few days,” she said.
After the kidney began to work, Mrs Napolitano improved and went home eight days after surgery and the road to recovery has been positive ever since.
“It wasn’t until after I had the transplant I realised how sick I had been,” she said.
Mrs Napolitano’s quality of life was so greatly improved, she completed Lynn’s Parkrun just 10 weeks after the transplant, and four months later, set up dance classes in the town. Now she no longer needs daily insulin injections due to the new pancreas.
“I would say to anyone, talk to your family about your intentions, about being on the organ donation list, let them know your decision,” she added.
“The NHS are amazing and I feel so proud we have a transplant centre on our doorstep.”
To give something back, the couple is trying to raise £3,000 for the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust. Mr Napolitano, a yoga instructor, has been taking part in a virtual sponsored bike ride throughout January from Land’s End to John O ‘Groats and is due to finish on Sunday. To sponsor Mr Napolitano, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/g5transplantward