Woman Gets First Transplant Necessitated by Needle Phobia
Diabetic patient couldn't handle her daily insulin shots
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 29, 2016 12:18 PM CST
A woman fills a syringe as she prepares to give herself an injection of insulin at her home.   (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

(Newser) – It's not too strange to hear about a diabetic undergoing a pancreas transplant. What's unusual here is that the transplant was necessitated by the UK patient's extreme fear of needles—the first time that's happened anywhere in the world, the BBC reports. Sue York, 55, has had Type 1 diabetes since she was 7, but her needle phobia had made dealing with her disease a living hell. Before the transplant, it would often take York up to 20 minutes to inject herself with insulin, an "impossible" process that would typically leave her shaking and vomiting, she tells the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire program. Things only got worse in 2012, when the UK's DMV required diabetic drivers to check their blood sugar levels every time before driving, as well as every two hours once behind the wheel. "It was just … too many invasions into the flesh," York says.

Diabetes.co.uk notes that there can be varying reasons for such needle fright, including childhood trauma of some sort, and that it can become a permanent fear. In York's case, she tried different types of therapy to get over her phobia, but ultimately she decided to fight to get on the transplant list—an effort that took more than two years and several panel appearances to justify. She received the transplant at the Manchester Royal Infirmary and now say she feels "incredible," while doctors assert the surgery has doubled her life expectancy. "No longer am I struggling to walk up a flight of stairs," she tells the BBC. "No longer is my skin yellow or grey. No longer do I look constantly exhausted." (These people had needles actually stuck in their bodies—for decades.)