When Brooke Dupree was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 11, a nurse who was trying to distract her from tests asked what her favorite candy was. Brooke said a Snickers bar. The nurse, who worked at a South Carolina Hospital, then informed her that was too bad, because she would never be able to eat a Snickers bar again.
She was wrong. Twenty-nine years later, Brooke bid diabetes a not-so-fond farewell after receiving the gift of life with a pancreas transplant at University Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. She never forgot the nurse’s statement and decided to name her new pancreas “Snickers.” “I wish I knew that nurse’s name, so I could go back and tell her how things turned out for me,” says Brooke.
A lifetime of worry
Brooke spent almost three decades living with diabetes. She grew up in a small town in South Carolina in the 1990s, where none of her classmates knew about diabetes and gave her a hard time about it. She even had a teacher try to snatch her insulin pump off the side of her jeans because she thought it was a beeper. But Brooke did the best she could—sometimes managing her disease well, sometimes not so well. Life moved forward, and though it was a difficult pregnancy, she and her husband Travis were able to have a child.
Shortly after Brooke, Travis and their daughter Caroline moved to Greenville, South Carolina, they went to a skate night for Caroline’s school. They sat at a table with an unfamiliar family, and the mother noticed the tattoo on Brooke’s wrist that indicated she had diabetes. She said her husband had suffered from diabetes before he had a pancreas transplant. “I looked at my husband and was completely blown away,” says Brooke. “I had no idea a pancreas transplant was an option for people with diabetes.”
Brooke began investigating the possibility, talking to staff at several transplant centers close to their home. But most of the centers predicted she would wait several years for a transplant, which was too long for her. In February 2019, she and her husband, Travis, flew to UW Health in Madison, which was where their neighbor had received his transplant. They were shocked by the amount of snow on the ground but heartened by the care they received. “Other than the weather, everything was so amazing,” says Brooke. “I felt like I could sit there and ask as many questions as I wanted. It was all smiles, all the time. I’d never been treated like that before. By the time we left, I had decided I was ready. There was no doubt in my mind that this was what we needed to do.”
At the end of May 2019, Brooke and Travis drove their camper across the country from South Carolina to await Brooke’s gift of life in Madison. She received her pancreas transplant in late July 2019.
Now, she is back to her job as an English instructor at a small technical college, and she and her family can feel much more comfortable making travel plans. “I can go outside and work all day in the garden if I want, without stopping because I have a low blood sugar episode,” she says. “My diabetes was a constant concern—and now it’s not."