Amanda Had a Pancreas Transplant. This is Her Story.

Pancreas transplants are protected and efficient, and have been for many years, however they’re solely hardly ever really helpful for sufferers with kind 1 diabetes, as a result of the negative effects from the transplant and immunosuppressive routine are often thought of harder than the diabetes itself. Most pancreas transplants for individuals with diabetes are carried out concurrently with kidney transplants, a scenario the place the affected person will already require anti-rejection remedy.

Amanda Ferguson is the uncommon affected person with kind 1 diabetes to have obtained a pancreas-only transplant. She was really helpful for this very unusual process primarily as a result of she suffered from an excessive measure of hypoglycemic unawareness.

The process cured her diabetes immediately, and it might or could not have saved her life. But the surgical procedure and anti-rejection medicines carry their very own intense negative effects, they usually’ve additionally exacerbated a number of the problems she sustained from her years dwelling with diabetes.

Amanda was gracious sufficient to talk to Diabetes Daily about her expertise.

Tell us about your adolescence with diabetes.

I used to be recognized on April 6, 1998. I used to be 11, and my first few years have been tough. Up and down on a regular basis. I might go into DKA actually shortly. Between 12 and 16 years outdated, I went to the emergency room 22 instances. It was terrible.

I wore an insulin pump for years. It would kink, or the cartridge would stick, and I wouldn’t listen sufficient, and it will be too late. The puberty years, stress in highschool – between me simply not being on the ball with it, or being pissed off and giving up on it – it was actually tough.

I feel a large a part of it was the lack of understanding, and concern. My grandmother and uncle each died from diabetes. My uncle was 32, he had already gone blind and misplaced each of his legs. My grandmother was on the listing for a kidney transplant, and he or she died earlier than receiving it.

What recommendation did you get to assist enhance your diabetes administration?

It was at all times “eat this exact amount of carbs.” For breakfast and dinner I wanted to have 60 grams of carbs, and lunch was 45 grams. You know, give your insulin 15 minutes earlier than you eat. I used to be at all times smaller, and if I didn’t wish to eat all of it, I’d go low. So, I’d eat what I wished, and provides my insulin afterwards.

My mother and father have been divorced, and there have been 4 of us children, so going backwards and forwards, it wasn’t a strict weight loss plan.

Knowing what you understand now about diabetes administration, might you’ve gotten executed issues in a different way?

Oh yeah, 100%.

For my complete life I’ve been listening to “no, absolutely, don’t do low-carb.” But the impact this weight loss plan has on individuals, it may be life-saving!

I used to be simply speaking to my dad about it, and he simply stated, “it was so hard with four children. It was too hard to separate you.” If I had that possibility of consuming low-carbohydrate, it will have been large.

I ultimately obtained my carb counting all the way down to a tee, nevertheless it was simply at all times a rollercoaster. I might have a couple of years the place it lastly balanced out, however my A1C’s, till I used to be 18-19, would go from eight% to 13%.

And I used to be utilizing a lot of insulin. During my being pregnant, I used to be giving myself 96 items of my long-acting per day. And 22-26 items of Humalog for each meal, as a result of I believed I needed to have the carbs.

Did docs inform you that you just had brittle diabetes?


Lots of kids and teenagers eat high-carb diets and have administration difficulties, however few find yourself within the hospital 22 instances.

Every physician I’ve seen for 25 years has stated, “I’ve never seen this before.”

Tell me about what led to your pancreas-only transplant.

One day, I used to be outdoors taking part in with my little boy, and I felt a little humorous, nevertheless it wasn’t my common low feeling. So I left him with my pals, I checked my blood sugar, and I used to be at 22 mg/dL. And I although, “no, my meter’s off,” so I checked 5 – 6 instances. And this saved occurring for months.

I couldn’t use a CGM for alerts. When I obtained pregnant, I turned allergic to any adhesive, and nonetheless am. So the insulin pump, the CGM, I couldn’t use them anymore.

Finally, I went to Houston Methodist Hospital and met with an endocrinologist. She informed me, “if we can go two weeks with no lows or highs, your body will reset and your hypoglycemia unawareness will improve.” But it simply wouldn’t occur. I might get down as little as 18 mg/dL.

After all of that, my endocrinologist introduced up the transplant. I had no concept that it was doable. I didn’t know that pancreas-only transplants have been even a factor.

That’s fairly uncommon, proper?

Yes. I dwell in Colorado now. Nobody right here does them.

Why have been you a good candidate for pancreas-only transplant?

When I met with the group, they stated that I needed to have two life-threatening circumstances. That was the kind 1, and the hypoglycemia unawareness. At age 29, after I first met with the group, every little thing else was excellent. The diabetes hadn’t executed every other harm that they might see. I at all times went to all of my appointments, and I had no problems. My kidneys have been nice, my eyes have been nice.

I used to be completely wholesome, apart from this dangerous pancreas. So, I met with kidney specialists, endocrinologists, surgeons, they usually lastly stated, “let’s go for it.”

[Note – the present ADA suggestions listing the next standards for pancreas-only transplants: “1) a history of frequent, acute, and severe metabolic complications (hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, ketoacidosis) requiring medical attention; 2) clinical and emotional problems with exogenous insulin therapy that are so severe as to be incapacitating; and 3) consistent failure of insulin-based management to prevent acute complications.”]

How intense was the surgical procedure and restoration?

The surgical procedure was 4 and a half to 5 hours, and I got here out in such ache, however surprisingly not belly ache. It took a whereas to determine what the supply was.

And at first, I might lean up after which move out. They have been discovering with pancreas-only transplants that you’d actually undergo from low blood strain. I couldn’t get off the bed for Three days as a result of I simply saved passing out. And as a result of this surgical procedure is so uncommon, they didn’t know precisely how I’d reply.

I additionally had an NG tube – up your nostril, down your throat, into your abdomen. I used to be tremendous nauseated, they usually did an x-ray and located that the tube was too far into my abdomen, so that they needed to elevate it out a little bit, and that was simply terrible.

After the transplant I used to be taking 26 capsules on daily basis, all with the NG tube down my throat. My greatest aim was simply getting up and strolling.

But you ultimately recovered from the surgical procedure. And your diabetes is now cured?


You can eat a field of donuts and also you’re tremendous?


What do you concentrate on that?

My favourite factor ever was a maple donut, so after I had gotten out of the hospital, I wished a maple donut. But 20 years of getting that terrible feeling about consuming sugary stuff … it took me in all probability two years to comfortably eat or take pleasure in meals like that.

I nonetheless get actually delicate to high-carb and sugary meals. I’ll take pleasure in them now, extra as a result of it’s the liberty that I can, however I strive to not.

And my digestive system has not been the identical since transplant, as a result of they fully rewire you. My new pancreas is down close to my ovary, and each of them are nonetheless there.

So you’ve gotten two pancreases?

The outdated one is nonetheless there! They stated if the brand new one fails, they will connect with the outdated one.

And you’d have kind 1 diabetes once more.


And do you continue to must be frightened about your physique rejecting the brand new pancreas?

I needed to keep in Houston for a month after the surgical procedure, and I went in each three days for bloodwork to ensure I wouldn’t reject. You have to remain masked, you’ll be able to’t eat out – for the primary yr, there are such a lot of restrictions as a result of your physique is so delicate. I might go in on a regular basis, and after that month, I might nonetheless do lab work repeatedly. Now it’s as soon as a yr, with a transplant group right here in Denver.

Tell me concerning the immunosuppressive medication it is advisable take.

Now I’m at 14 capsules a day. They do have a lot of negative effects. Nausea is a regular a part of my life now. Swelling from prednisone, and since I’m on the steroid on daily basis I’ve to see a particular dermatologist as a result of steroids make you susceptible to pores and skin most cancers. And then the anti-rejection drugs could cause kind 2 diabetes. And most cancers.

You should have actually good medical insurance.

Yes. Thankfully. Before my transplant, I needed to meet with a monetary advisor, as a result of a lot of transplant sufferers reject their new organs as a result of they will’t afford to maintain up with it. I’m very blessed with the insurance coverage I had. For all my meds I pay $120 each three months. Some sufferers can pay over $1,000.

And, regardless of the remedy, I perceive that you just’re combating new diabetic problems?

I had my transplant in May of 2017, and in July I observed a lot of imaginative and prescient modifications. Like I stated, for 20 years, every little thing was clear. And I went to a common ophthalmologist, and he despatched me to a retina specialist. The specialist instantly recognized me with stage four diabetic retinopathy, which is the worst stage.

I used to be very, very upset about this. At first, they thought it was a symptom of rejecting the brand new pancreas, nevertheless it turned out to be pancreatitis.

Is that the one diabetic complication you’re experiencing?

I’m additionally at stage Three kidney illness proper now.

What I’ve been informed is that though I don’t have diabetes anymore, these twenty years impacted my physique. So I nonetheless must go to my common physician for my Three-month diabetes checkups, though I don’t have it anymore, as a result of all of those problems can nonetheless come up.

Can you make that higher?

No. And the anti-rejection medicines could make the kidneys worse.

My specialist is already speaking to me about a kidney transplant sooner or later. My brother is a excellent match, and he’s agreed to try this. It’s been a large dialogue.

Do you understand what’s going to occur subsequent?

No. They don’t know the way lengthy the brand new pancreas will dwell – they determine 10-12 years.

What I’m hoping for is that we will wait on the kidney transplant for fairly a few years, and if the pancreas is at that time by then, hopefully we might do a two-in-one factor, as an alternative of two separate transplants.

This could also be an not possible query, however … trying again in your pancreas transplant, do you assume it was the suitable choice?

I’m very backwards and forwards on if it was price it. At first, I informed my husband, “I’ll never do this again.”

But my kidney specialist, who is probably the greatest docs I’ve ever had, I informed him, “You know, I feel like my kidney disease and my eye disease are because of my transplant.” And he stated, “It’s a possibility, but I would put money on it that you would not be here today if you didn’t have that transplant.”

My large push was that my son was 5, and my first husband had handed away unexpectedly, so I used to be all he had. I believed, I can’t likelihood this anymore.

But I nonetheless commute, particularly when my eyes are actually dangerous. I determine if I make it into my fifties, or hopefully older, so long as I can share my story and assist somebody, the transplant, the illnesses, every little thing might be price it.

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Read extra about Humalog, insulin, insulin pumps, Intensive administration, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), low-carb weight loss plan, pancreas transplant, retinopathy.