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WATCHING BEARS IN CANADA - AN ENDURING DREAM 

Martin Husák’s story as a passionate fisherman and hunter turned into quite a drama in 2003. That was when his pancreas stopped working and he became diabetic – from one day to the next. A normally healthy man up to that point, he suddenly had a blood sugar level of around thirty and had to face the harsh reality of having diabetes. He had to learn to live with it. This June he will celebrate his 45th birthday, and it must be said that, despite his young age, he has been through a lot, and not just in terms of health.

It all started with diabetes

Martin lives in Ivančice near Brno, the birthplace of the great Czech actor Vladimír Menšík, Professionally he is trained as a plumber, but he cannot pursue his profession due to his current state of health. After he was diagnosed with diabetes seventeen years ago, Martin began to regularly visit a diabetic counselling center. During one of his visits in 2015, he was diagnosed with kidney failure and had to undergo immediate dialysis. From then on, he has had to go to hospital for dialysis three times a week. As he himself says, even though the procedure always left him feeling physically ill, he truly looked forward to his regular visits. The nurses from the dialysis ward gave him the courage, optimism and mental support that he needed. Then, at the time when he found out that his kidneys were no longer working and that he could not live without the dialysis support, a sad thing came to pass in his private life, too. His wife probably could not bear the situation and left Martin, after eighteen years of living together, taking their two children with her. He was left alone with his illness; so, for him, the visits to the renal care center, the help of friends, and the psychological support of his mother became the only motivating sources for him not to give up, but to try to move on, and to aim for having a successful transplant in the future. His application progressed quickly and, from the list of patients awaiting transplantation, he was given the first opportunity for the procedure, only a year and a half after his kidneys failed. But then he was not completely fit at that time. He had broken a leg before and still had a small open wound there. Therefore, he had to cancel the planned transplantation.

"It has been exactly a year since the successful kidney and pancreas transplants. Not even a stroke stopped me ..."

This year on Easter Day, Martin celebrated the first anniversary of a successful transplant performed at the Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine (IKEM) in Prague. In addition to his kidneys, his pancreas was also transplanted, so Martin got rid of his diabetes, too, and everything started to go in the right direction. But there were complications. After waking up after the transplant, he did not speak at all for three days and had a weak paralysis on the right side of his body. He did not give up and started effective physiotherapy at IKEM. Over the next ten days, he managed to eliminate all the consequences of the stroke, and again he seemed to have won. Less than a month later, however, he was unpleasantly surprised by another stroke, which this time struck with much greater force, leaving him virtually completely paralyzed. He didn't give up this time either and started again from scratch. Again, physiotherapy, with an effort to practice speaking, but this time a bad opponent - COVID-19 - got in his way to complete recovery. Martin had to interrupt his regular PT sessions not only as a result of the government measures (due to which a number of medical facilities were closed or restricted in operation), he also had to be careful because of the forced suppression of his own immunity - and that for life. Transplanted organs require that the patients' innate immunity be suppressed by medication, so that their immune system will not treat the donor organs as ‘foreign’. For the past six months, until the quarantine restrictions were imposed, Martin had partially started to walk and talk again, but his right hand has not yet become fully mobile. He is trying to do PT at much as possible at home while working in the garden, and he is looking forward to being able to return to professional physiotherapy and get back into perfect shape. He is missing his plumbing trade, which he is now unable to perform due to his state of health. At the same time, he himself notes that there is not a single plumber far and wide within a radius of 50 kilometers from Ivančice, so he would certainly be very successful in his work.

Fishing, hunting, shooting – one can adapt to anything

Martin never took part in classic sports, but he spent over five years shooting with a shotgun and participating in competitive fishing. Both activities have accompanied him all his life and remain his hobbies to this day. Due to impairments that he still has after the stroke, Martin can't cast with his fishing rods, so he has swapped fishing for taking care of his friend's pond. He continues to be a hunting enthusiast, and, thanks to the help of his friends, he now also has modified observation points, so that he does not have difficulty climbing up them. He thought that he would return to competitive shooting and start competing against other handicapped athletes, but as he says with a smile, he is not handicapped enough. He went to see the training of the Paralympians in Brno, and when he saw the athletes without arms or legs, he realized that he was actually healthy. He may have the opportunity to return to normal competitive shooting after complete PT and full recovery.

Weimaraner - a new partner in the woods

On the point of turning forty-five, Martin’s luck may be turning for the better. PT is slowly beginning to take off again and his children, who have lived with their mother until now, a 21-year-old son and an 18-year-old daughter, are moving back to his home. Their mental and physical support is very important to Martin. He is grateful to his friends, who have not stopped supporting and helping him throughout his long-term health problems. And thanks to hunting, he also has a dog hunting partner, a Weimaraner, who gets Martin to go for regular walks, even if he doesn't want to. And he also has one big dream. He longs to visit faraway Canada, to see its natural beauty, and, if he is very lucky, to see a bear there. Because Martin has to take care of his immunity more than anyone else, his dream of traveling to Canada is postponed indefinitely at the moment, but it will surely come true one day.

At the age of 23,

Mr. Husák contracted type 1 diabetes. He was monitored in a specialist diabetes clinic and treated with insulin. Five years later, he developed late complications of diabetes, such as microangiopathy and polyneuropathy. After a few years, kidney disease appeared, too, which progressed until November 2016, when it was necessary to start a regular hemodialysis program. Mr. Husák was sent almost immediately to the diabetologist clinic of IKEM Prague, where a program of examinations for a combined kidney and pancreas transplantation was started. In 2017, his condition was complicated by the development of ischemic heart disease, and he needed to receive stents for clogged coronary arteries. He was then placed on a waiting list for a transplant. In April 2019, after two and a half years of regular dialysis, he finally underwent a combined pancreas-kidney transplant. It was successful, both organs are functioning well to this day.

MUDr. Jakub Ševčík chief physician of the Ivančice renal care center