Kirk Labar, East Norriton StemExpress Site Manager, knows firsthand how advancements in medical research can transform and save lives – including his own.
“I accept that every day that I’m alive is a blessing made possible due to research, said Kirk. “I feel like I have a new lease on life.”
The Early Years
At nine years old, Kirk was diagnosed with diabetes. Closely monitored by his parents, his daily routine consisted of regularly checking his blood sugar levels, taking up to five insulin shots, and continuously monitoring his food intake. This was not ideal for a busy child as he wanted to live life without restrictions. Ultimately it took its toll. Once he turned 16 he fell into a deep depression. ‘Why me’, Kirk would ask himself. For a period of time he stopped taking care of himself, made poor health decisions and as a result his diabetes worsened. His lack of self-care ultimately had a long-term negative effect on his health.
Things Continued to Get Worse
As his diabetes became more advanced it created additional health problems for Kirk. After he turned 22, he required an insulin pump to help his ailing pancreas and a few short years later he hit kidney failure.
To survive, for nearly four years Kirk was in dialysis three times per week. He managed a full-time job and then spent an additional 14 hours hooked up to a machine that cleaned out the toxins in his blood. What’s more, he was taking 10 different medications and used a catheter that was surgically connected to his stomach to help him eliminate waste. For more than three years he did not urinate.
This grueling routine was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting. “There was not one area of my life that was not affected by diabetes,” recalls Kirk.
He also knew that dialysis would sustain his life for only so long as it was extremely taxing on his body. It was tough to come to grips with his situation, but he knew his only chance for survival was a kidney transplant.
“When I was put on the transplant list, I had come to a point of acceptance that if something didn’t come up soon, it could have been much worse,” reflects Kirk.
The Beginning of a New Life
On August 4, 2018, Kirk’s life forever changed. He received not only a new kidney but a new pancreas as well. As a result, today Kirk enjoys things that he hadn’t been able to do for years. Eight short weeks after his transplant he started working out at the gym. He has since joined a softball league, plays roller hockey and can stand for long periods of time. He has also reduced the number of daily medications. Today the main function of his medicine is to prevent the rejection of his new organs.
But what’s most notable is that thanks to the discovery of new treatments that sustained his life until his transplant, he is no longer a diabetic. Each phase of Kirk’s journey was made possible due to various medicines and treatments that prolonged his life.
“It’s because of companies like StemExpress who support research that I’m alive today. My personal experience is why I wanted to work here and give back to this cause,” said Kirk.
Kirk is just one example of many people around the world who can enjoy a better quality of life thanks to research and the discovery of new treatments. With advancements in research, we can all look forward to a promising future.
Learn how YOU can support research by donating blood or bone marrow with StemExpress.