Transplant Patients Team Up For Support

Three IU Health transplant patients recently connected on social media, met for the first time, and have formed a friendship based on mutual experiences.

It’s difficult to measure the depth of appreciation for their donors. They sometimes struggle with explaining their gratitude. Many times, they can be reduced to tears – overwhelmed with the sensation that they have a new lease on life. And sometimes, it’s hard for others to understand those feelings.

But when three IU Health transplant patients recently met face-to-face, the conversation flowed. They understood each other – even though they had only just met. All three received pancreas transplants at University Hospital.

“It’s comforting to know other IU transplant people. We see the same doctors and nurses and share a similar background,” said Greenwood resident Heather Hobbs. She received her transplant on Jan. 21, 2017 after years of treatment for Type 1 diabetes.

Sarah Henderson Powell was also diagnosed with diabetes. The Shelby County native received her first pancreas transplant under the care of Dr. Jonathan Fridell on Nov. 11, 2016. But complications developed. A year later, her body began rejecting the organ. Powell was again listed for transplant and received a new pancreas on Feb. 13, 2018.

“Having support groups online is wonderful but meeting with people in real life is much better. We hope to make it a monthly thing, said Powell. “We sat for over two hours talking about everything from how we are doing to trying to live life after transplant. What was really interesting to me was how even though I was just meeting these women for the first time, we have a bond that not many share.”

Beth Zeilstra reached out to other transplant patients through social media in an effort to create a forum for sharing similar experiences. After 20 years of diabetic highs and lows, she received a new pancreas on June 7, 2008.

“When you go through a transplant, there is so much you don’t know and afterward, you sometimes just want someone to talk to who has similar experiences,” said Zeilstra. “I have found that in these women.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.