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A Pancreas Transplant Story.

Denise Martinez used to have type 1 diabetes.  She had it for 24 years.  She also used to have cancer.  But now, Denise is diabetes and cancer free.  Her story is amazing, and she has offered to share it with us.  Here it is, in her own words:

"On April 9th, 2008 my life changed forever.

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 7 years old. I was diagnosed at a time when type 1 diabetes was commonly mistaken with type 2. So of course, everyone had all kinds of ignorant advice such as "Don't eat anything with sugar in it or they'll cut off your legs". It was a very scary time. Fortunately, I had a great support system. My friends were all interested in what was happening to me and they would all try to help me feel as normal as possible. They learned to give shots just as all my family members did. And my mom would make all kinds of sugar-free goodies for me. They tasted horrible because Equal and Splenda did not exist back then...LOL. I lived with diabetes and was able to control it well for many years. As a young adult, I dealt with the same things everyone else does- school, boyfriends, and independence. Living with diabetes taught me a lot of things. Controlling your diabetes is a huge responsibility. No one can do it for you. I learned discipline, patience, tolerance, and most of all that if you don't love yourself, you cannot love anyone else.
The great thing about diabetes (if there is one), is that you can control it. When I was 15 years old I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. It is a rare form of Cancer that attacks your lymph nodes. You have lymph nodes all over your body so it is very hard to treat it. I struggled with this type of cancer for many years. I had 7 different tumors. Five of which were malignant and required chemotherapy and/or radiation. Through all of this diabetes was always the main issue. I didn't want to lose control of my blood sugars because I was terrified of the complications. With so many meds and so many changes in my body, my A1C reached 8.5 at one point. I have been in remission for 3 years now. Cancer is just a memory now, but it left it's mark on me.

During my last treatments of radiation my creatinine levels skyrocketed and I went into kidney failure. Both of my kidneys were working at less than 10%. In February of 2007 I began dialysis. It is a terrible, terrible treatment that is necessary for you to live when your kidneys are no longer able to function on their own. I had a surgery to implant a surgical graft in my arm so that they could insert the two needles in my arm every session. I went to dialysis every other day for four hours for a year and two months. I decided against live donorship because I am not comfortable with someone making that type of sacrifice for me. You can live with one kidney but I still wouldn't want someone to go through the surgery and recovery. It is a huge operation. My transplant surgeon also informed me that because I had type 1 diabetes it would not make sense to transplant the kidney only. Eventually, diabetes would ruin my new kidney. It wouldn't last very long. So I got on a list to get a kidney/pancreas transplant. Just 8 days later, they called me. They had found a donor for me. I had no idea how my life was about to change.

Cut to the present: I have not taken an insulin shot since my surgery! I am no longer diabetic. Transplant is not a cure. I will always be immuno compromised. Which means I am susceptible to all kinds of bacterias and viruses. I cannot be in the sun too much AND my chances of getting cancer have increased by 45%.

But it's such a relief to feel GOOD again. Life has changed dramatically. I had an insulin pump for five years and all of a sudden- no pump. It's crazy because I still check my blood sugar. Right after I had the surgery in the hospital, I would wake up and ask the nurse to check my blood sugar because I needed my insulin. My poor husband had to convince me that I am not diabetic anymore. Every so often I wake up and freak out because I'm late for dialysis. My husband is the best. He patiently tells me the whole story all over again. I sit there and weep as if it had just happened all over again. I have NOT adopted any new behaviors. I still do not smoke or drink. I still drink Diet Coke. And I still eat sugar free candies. During my third month of recovery I DID try all kinds of delicious desserts and treats. I had to! I am more conscious of what I eat than most patients though. That is definitely from watching what I ate for so many years.
I am so thankful to GOD for blessing me with these Gifts. I have not only been blessed with the Gift of Life, I have also been blessed with the wonderful gift of not having diabetes for the first time in 24 years. I will always be a diabetic at heart. You guys are my heroes. I know what it's like to face that challenge every day. I pray that a cure for type 1 diabetes will come sooner than later. It would be the best gift ever for all of us. I encourage everyone to be conscious of their health. But I especially encourage everyone with type 1 diabetes to be as compliant as possible. Good control helped me to survive all of the tough challenges that came my way. While thinking of dialysis and kidney failure may be terrifying to you, remember that I lived for 20+ years without any diabetes related complications.

Take care of yourselves, love yourselves, and everything else will come into place."Editor:  An organ donor saved Denise's life. For more information, visit the National Transplant Society.


all i can say is ILY mrs. sparling!

Anybody want to donate a pancreas this way?

That is a great story. Thatnk you for sharing it with us.

Wow. What a great story. Thank you Denise for sharing, and thank you Kerri for bringing it to us.

Wow, she is quite an inspiration. Thank you for sharing her story.

My wife had her pancreas transplant in March 2008. At OSU Medical Center. She had a kidney transplant in December of 2005 but her doctor did not want to do the pancreas at that time as she has had bypass surgery and he wanted to keep her under as less time as possible.

So in March she went in during the terrible snow storm here in Ohio and we took 6 hours to get to Columbus, a trip that normally takes 2 hours. Could not see the whole time and I had my head sticking out the window to drive most of the way.

It was a success and she is no longer a diabetic. Takes anti-rejection meds but it's worth it.

She was a brittle diabetic since age 13 with many health problems. Her pancreas came at age 58. Now we can only hope some of her neuropathy begins to reverse, as she is in a wheelchair now.

It's a devastating disease and I wish anyone who has it good luck. Stay on top of it.

i must say also thanks for sharring and how hard that must have been for you . God bless you and stay warm dear .

what an amazing story. thank you. healthefda.com.

What an amazing story, and astounding courage. Thank you for sharing!

What a great story.

great ending words, "remember that I lived for 20+ years without any diabetes related complications." thank you for sharing such a great journey. glad for the happy ending :-)

hi i too have had a kidney &pancreace transplant in edingbrogh scotland in june 8 last year,i had been diabetic for 35 years,but i was the worst at control ever!! sometimes i had blood sugars over 40 and hb1 of 30+, after spending years on my fathers cure or so called of drinking boiled cabbage juice,i never let anyone know of my condition and hated it.then 3 years ago my kidneys gave up,i refused to go on the machine for nearly a year my kidney function at this point was4% and the doctor said if i went on the machine i could also get a new pancreace so on valentines day 2007 i went on the machine for the first time,for me the dialysis was easy i just sat there 4 hours every other day it was a rest for me, i was lucky in that i had no harsh complications from the diabeties other than the kidneys going wonkey!!so after 16 months on the machine i got the opps.now i see how lucky i have been,i have seen diabetics go blind have legs amputated heart problems the list is endless of how devastating an illness diabeties can be
i have been so blessed,now
all i want is to see my children grow up and never have to drink the boiled cabbage juice.and most importantly thank the person whom gave this gift
and hope that the parents
find some comfort in knowing the great good their son or daughter has done

I wanted to ask you how you can get on a transplant list. Did your insurance cover everything? I have had diabetes for 23 years and it is slowly but successfully killing me faster than I would like. A new pancreas would maraculously change my entire life as it did to you.

In response to Nicole's question dated March 5th about how to get on a transplant waiting list: Nicole....I had a kidney/pancreas transplant two days after you posted this question...and I am doing great! In many cases--your insurance coverage will dictate where you can be listed--and where the transplant will be paid for. If your insurance will cover out of state transplants--it is best to get yourself listed at as many surrounding states as you can. Depending on when you began dialysis--IF you have begun--you will be eligible for Medicare coverage that will work in conjunction with your other insurance. After you find out where your insurance will cover the procedure at--you would contact each medical center or hospital, and ask to speak with a kidney/pancreas transplant coordinator. Once you speak with them--they will lead you thru the process of being added to their list. You will have a transplant evaluation with many medical professionals such as surgeons, RN's, social workers, dieticians, anesthesiologists, etc. It is a very involved process....as they have so much to consider when accepting a new candidate. They want to make sure that you are physically able to withstand the rigors of transplantation. Your emotional, mental, and social health is also scrutinized. They want to be assured that once the surgery is over, that you will be able to adequately take responsibility for yourself, and the new organs in your body. It is important for YOU to know what is involved also. This is the time to ask a lot of questions! You need to have a great support system with family and friends afterward--as you will be facing a whole new life and have some emotional highs and lows. It can be a challenging journey to get yourself on the waiting lists, but it is SO worth it. I live in MI--and was listed in OH and WI as well as MI. My transplant took place in WI and it was the farthest away--but the best place in the world to be at. I encourage you to do your homework--and get yourself listed. Once you are listed at the first hospital--you'll have an idea of what is necessary to continue on at other facilities. It's all about the same. You learn to have current labwork on hand, copies of insurance cards, Dr's names/addresses/phone #'s. You may be asked to have a number of other tests done to help the transplant teams decide if you're a good candidate--or a risky one. They will not take any unnecessary chances with your life!
I hope this info has been helpful to you. Good luck in your quest for a great transplant!

so very glad to read of your success. I too had a K/P transplant in 03. a huge difference, but plenty of complications. One lovely side effect was regaining my sight after 17 years. The first thing was to call the kids to come over since I hadn't "seen" them since they were todlers. I am enternally grateful, but still muddle through each day with new complications. Would like to know if anyone hallucinates on these meds or nightmares?

I have chronic pancreatis and desperate too,have my life back, less the pain and every think else that this has taken from me! How do I get on a transplant list? I live in Houston,TX and only have Medicaid as a medical insurance. Are there any Doctors anyone can refer me to? Thank you, your stories are insperational!

I had a kidney/pancreas transplant in March. I had been a diabetic for 40 years with many complications and was in end stage kidney disease. It is still so hard to believe how fortunate and blessed I am. I haven't taken any insulin since my transplant, my kidney function is normal and an extra bonus is I no longer have high blood pressure. The surgery is difficult and the recovery is brutal for a week or so. When you start to heal you can forget how awful you felt before. I was on a lot of medication before the transplant so I was used to the regimen of taking multiple meds. Someone mentioned nightmares as a side effect. I have the most vivid dreams. Not really bad just full of detail and emotion. The most difficult side effect to get used to is being hungry! I had no appetite for a long while. I have to control myself (something I am used to after being diabetic so long) or I would gain lots of weight. All of you, stay strong and believe in miracles. I had one happen to me.

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