Jordan Barber – I developed diabetes after a kidney transplant

We hear how Jordan Barber developed post-transplant diabetes mellitus after having a kidney transplant.

Jordan Barber (26) lives in Bloemfontein, Free State.


Stage 5 renal failure

Jordan Barber was diagnosed with Stage 5 renal failure in September 2014. His glomerular filtration rate (test used to check how well the kidneys are working) was 4 mL/min. This meant he had End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD); his kidneys had lost almost all ability to function effectively.

Jordan explains, “I was placed on dialysis (where all the toxins are removed from your body by a machine) for four hours a session, three times a week. A transplant was always the only solution and goal my medical team and I worked towards, to get back to a normal life.”

For four years, before a matching donor was found, Jordan had to go for three sessions (four hours) of dialysis every week, while still studying to complete his degree.

“I clearly remember going to dialysis at 4:30 in the morning so that I could be the first one put on the machine. Sometimes I even had to do dialysis on a Friday night which was never pleasant, especially while you are a student,” Jordan says.

Thankfully, he completed his studies in 2019 a year after his transplant.


Jordan explains that the process of the transplant was long. “It involves many blood tests, doctors’ consults and other tests to ensure that your body will be able to withstand the transplant, if it’s done. You are also constantly monitored to ensure that if an organ does become available, your body is in the best condition to allow for a successful transplantation.”

“All the complications were discussed and consent had to be given to go ahead with having the transplant and accepting the risks. I recall that one of the risks is even skin cancer.”

He adds, “Waiting just over four years is a long wait. But, well worth it, looking back now and knowing everything one has to go through to receive a transplant.”

On the 19th February 2018, Jordan received a life-changing phone call to say there was a match (from a recently deceased person) and he should come to the hospital immediately.

Life after the transplant

The transplant went well and Jordan started experiencing the benefits. “My life has changed a lot since the transplant. I have a lot more freedom and free time and not constantly planning my life around dialysis. There are no worries about restricting fluids and avoiding eating certain foods anymore. Having a transplant is the greatest blessing that can happen to you. It gave me a new lease of life and a second chance.”

Post-transplant diabetes mellitus

Two years after the transplant, in May 2020, Jordan was diagnosed with post-transplant diabetes mellitus due to complications and side effects of the transplant medication. “In 2019, I had to use insulin for other diabetic related issues that arose due to medication, which was later changed and I could stop taking the insulin.”

When asked if he was upset by the fact that he had developed diabetes due to the transplant, he responds, “I was more nervous that it would affect my kidney function. But, luckily it didn’t. After that I just took things day by day and slowly got used to having diabetes.”

Currently, Jordan uses Apidra, a rapid-acting insulin, before each meal. Then at 10pm every night, he use a long-acting insulin, Optisulin. “Injecting yourself is scary in the beginning but you get used to it very quickly,” Jordan says.

Current lifestyle

The 26-year-old exercises frequently.“I usually walk and play golf in my spare time and try to lead an active and healthy lifestyle. I was due to take part in the South African National Transplant Games in June. But, due to COVID-19, it had to be postponed. I was going to play Table Tennis with the hope of qualifying for the South African team that would go to the World Transplant Games.”

He adds, “I also try to limit carbs and sugar as much as possible and only eat at mealtimes. I don’t snack between meal unless I have a hypoglycaemic episode and I drink a lot of water as well. Adapting to living with diabetes is a challenge. But, once you have a daily routine, it becomes quite easy to manage your glucose levels and it becomes routine.”


Laurelle Williams is the Editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Feel free to email Laurelle on [email protected]

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