Auto Islet Transplant

After living with pancreatitis, auto islet transplant changes Katie's life

Katie Bridgewater wrote the following after undergoing a pancreatectomy with islet auto-transplantation and splenectomy following 10 years of living with pancreatitis.

In July 2015, after suffering for more than 10 years with chronic pain, ongoing testing, multiple surgical procedures and the realities of living with pancreatitis, I had a total pancreatectomy with islet auto-transplantation and splenectomy.

I suffered through years of pain, and went through endless physicians who didn’t know what to do with me, but the team at UW Health saved my life. From Day One, I was pain free. Well, I mean I had a whole new pain from the surgery, but it was only temporary. This surgery was by far the hardest thing I have very been through, but I would do it again in a heartbeat given the chance.

The team took amazing care of me and the transplant floor nurses and staff are by far the best. I can say that because, having been sick so long, I have been to most of the other units in the hospital. Everyone heals at a different pace, and for the month I was in the hospital —
and through every complication — I knew the team was on top of it.

In April 2018, I needed a revision surgery due to bile reflux into my stomach. Now this type of transplant includes this revision so other people don't have to worry about bile reflux happening to them.

During this surgery, the surgeon went in through my first scar. I'll admit that in just three years between the surgeries, the advancements in pain management have been incredible. I was in the hospital for 17 days recovering, but again, 110 percent the staff has become a part of me and I am forever thankful to all of them for giving me my life back. Since that time, I became an advocate for others who are suffering, and am helping them find hope.