Amanda Had a Pancreas Transplant. That is Her Story.

Pancreas transplants are secure and efficient, and have been for many years, however they’re solely hardly ever really helpful for sufferers with sort 1 diabetes. For one factor, the unwanted side effects from the transplant and immunosuppressive routine are normally thought of tougher than sort 1 diabetes itself. Most pancreas transplants for folks 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 sort 1 diabetes to have acquired 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. However the surgical procedure and anti-rejection drugs deliver their very own intense unwanted side effects, they usually’ve additionally exacerbated among the issues she sustained from her years residing with diabetes.

Amanda was gracious sufficient to talk to Diabetes Each day about her expertise.

Inform us about your youth with diabetes.

I used to be recognized on April 6, 1998. I used to be 11, and my first few years had been tough. Up and down on a regular basis. I’d 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 Between 12 and 16 years outdated, I went to the emergency room 22 instances.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 could kink, or the cartridge would stick, and I wouldn’t listen sufficient, and it might 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 believe a giant 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 she or he died earlier than receiving it.

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

It was at all times “eat this precise quantity of carbs.” For breakfast and dinner I wanted to have 60 grams of carbs, and lunch was 45 grams. , give your insulin quarter-hour 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 needed, and provides my insulin afterwards.

My dad and mom had been divorced, and there have been 4 of us children, so going forwards and backwards, it wasn’t a strict eating regimen.

Understanding what you already know now about diabetes administration, might you have got finished issues in a different way?

Oh yeah, 100%.

For my complete life I’ve been listening to “no, completely, don’t do low-carb.” However the impact this eating regimen has on folks, it may be life-saving!

I used to be simply speaking to my dad about it, and he simply mentioned, “it was so laborious with 4 youngsters. It was too laborious to separate you.” If I had that choice of consuming low-carbohydrate, it might have been big.

I finally bought my carb counting all the way down to a tee, however it was simply at all times a rollercoaster. I’d have a few years the place it lastly balanced out, however my A1C’s, till I used to be 18-19, would go from 8% to 13%.

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

Did docs inform you that you simply had brittle diabetes?


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

Each physician I’ve seen for 25 years has mentioned, “I’ve by no means seen this earlier than.”

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

At some point, I used to be outdoors enjoying with my little boy, and I felt a bit of humorous, however it wasn’t my common low feeling. So I left him with my mates, 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 or 6 instances. And this stored occurring for months.

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

Lastly, I went to Houston Methodist Hospital and met with an endocrinologist. She informed me, “if we are able to go two weeks with no lows or highs, your physique will reset and your hypoglycemia unawareness will enhance.” Nevertheless it simply wouldn’t occur. I’d get down as little as 18 mg/dL.

In spite of everything of that, my endocrinologist introduced up the transplant. I had no concept that it was potential. I didn’t know that pancreas-only transplants had been even a factor.

That’s fairly uncommon, proper?

Sure. I reside in Colorado now. No one right here does them.

Why had been you an excellent candidate for pancreas-only transplant?

After I met with the workforce, they mentioned 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 workforce, all the things else was good. The diabetes hadn’t finished another injury that they might see. I at all times went to all of my appointments, and I had no issues. My kidneys had been nice, my eyes had been nice.

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

[Note – the current ADA recommendations list the following criteria 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 some time to determine what the supply was.

And at first, I’d lean up after which go out. They had been discovering with pancreas-only transplants that you’d actually undergo from low blood strain. I couldn’t get off the bed for 3 days as a result of I simply stored passing out. And since 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, in order that they needed to carry it out a bit of bit, and that was simply terrible.

After the transplant I used to be taking 26 capsules day by day, all with the NG tube down my throat. My greatest purpose was simply getting up and strolling.

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


You may eat a field of donuts and also you’re high quality?


What do you concentrate on that?

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

I nonetheless get actually delicate to high-carb and sugary meals. I’ll get pleasure from them now, extra as a result of it’s the liberty that I can, however I attempt 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 have got two pancreases?

The outdated one remains to be there! They mentioned if the brand new one fails, they’ll hook up with the outdated one.

And also you’d have sort 1 diabetes once more.


And do you continue to must be nervous 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 verify I wouldn’t reject. It’s important to keep 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’d go in on a regular basis, and after that month, I’d nonetheless do lab work commonly. Now it’s yearly, with a transplant workforce right here in Denver.

Inform me in regards to the immunosuppressive medication you want to take.

Now I’m at 14 capsules a day. They do have lots of unwanted side effects. Nausea is a traditional a part of my life now. Swelling from prednisone, and since I’m on the steroid day by day I’ve to see a particular dermatologist as a result of steroids make you susceptible to pores and skin most cancers. After which the anti-rejection drugs could cause sort 2 diabetes. And most cancers.

It’s essential to have actually good medical insurance.

Sure. Fortunately. Earlier than my transplant, I needed to meet with a monetary advisor, as a result of lots of transplant sufferers reject their new organs as a result of they’ll’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 simply’re combating new diabetic issues?

I had my transplant in Could of 2017, and in July I seen lots of imaginative and prescient adjustments. Like I mentioned, for 20 years, all the things was clear. And I went to a daily ophthalmologist, and he despatched me to a retina specialist. The specialist instantly recognized me with stage 4 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, however it turned out to be pancreatitis.

Is that the one diabetic complication you’re experiencing?

I’m additionally at stage 3 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 3-month diabetes checkups, though I don’t have it anymore, as a result of all of those issues can nonetheless come up.

Are you able to make that higher?

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

My specialist is already speaking to me a couple of kidney transplant sooner or later. My brother is an ideal match, and he’s agreed to do this. It’s been a giant dialogue.

Have you learnt what’s going to occur subsequent?

No. They don’t understand how lengthy the brand new pancreas will reside – they determine 10-12 years.

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

This can be an unimaginable query, however … trying again in your pancreas transplant, do you assume it was the suitable choice?

I’m very forwards and backwards on if it was price it. At first, I informed my husband, “I’ll by no means do that once more.”

However my kidney specialist, who is among the finest docs I’ve ever had, I informed him, “, I really feel like my kidney illness and my eye illness are due to my transplant.” And he mentioned, “It’s a risk, however I’d put cash on it that you wouldn’t be right here in the present day should 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 assumed, I can’t probability this anymore.

However I nonetheless shuttle, particularly when my eyes are actually unhealthy. 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 ailments, all the things shall be price it.

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