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Diabetic Woman Becomes First in the World to Receive Pancreas Transplant Because of Needlephobia

Illustration for article titled Diabetic Woman Becomes First in the World to Receive Pancreas Transplant Because of Needlephobia

After suffering from Type 1 diabetes most of her life, Sue York has become the first person in the world to undergo a pancreas transplant on the basis of being afraid of needles; she will now be able to forgo daily insulin shots.


In an interview with the BBC, York described her severe fear of needles that led to the surgery as “too many invasions into the flesh.” She gave up driving because, in her home of Lincoln, England, diabetic drivers were forced to check their blood glucose levels before driving and every two hours after they were in the driver’s seat.

Already too weak to walk long distances, York nearly became housebound; she says she tried every therapy imaginable to cure the trypanophobia that would make her “shake” and “vomit” with each shot. Nothing worked, so she signed up for a transplant waiting list, where her name sat for two years.


Following some pushback from doctors, York was finally able to undergo surgery. Now, she says her life’s completely changed for the better.

“No longer am I struggling to walk up a flight of stairs, getting breathless walking into the wind. No longer is my skin yellow or grey. No longer do I look constantly exhausted,” she said. “I’ve had to get new glasses because my eyesight has improved and feeling has returned to areas on my feet where I’d begun to lose sensation.”

Her successful surgery opens the doors for other needlephobic diabetes patients, as well as the question of how to rank these patients’ needs on a list of potential recipients for pancreas transplants—usually diabetics with severe, end-stage complications.

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Image via BBC.

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It’s easy to sneer at people for hating needles, but for somebody who’s been getting multiple daily injections every day of their life since childhood or even infancy, it really and truly can be a terrifying thing.