Pancreas transplant

Celebrating Gary, recipient of our 20,000th organ transplanted

Man in a plaid shirt standing in front of balloons spelling twenty-thousand

Throughout his struggles with kidney failure, Type 2 diabetes and, eventually, a kidney-pancreas transplant at UW Health Transplant Center, Gary Grosklaus never once shed a tear.

But when he learned that he had received the 20,000th organ transplanted at UW Health, Gary wept for the first time. “My emotions just hit me all at once,” he said.

He had gone through so much during his illness that he was overcome to learn he was a milestone patient for a world-class transplant facility. “I had heard that Madison was a top-notch transplant facility,” he said. “That’s why I was so confident throughout the process.”

Gary’s health problems started with a high blood pressure incident more than 20 years ago—he blacked out in his bathroom on Christmas night. The following morning, when his brother Steve took him to the emergency room, doctors sent him home with a prescription for high blood pressure medication.

Gary’s blood pressure was so high that over time, it affected his kidneys and led to him developing Type 2 diabetes. “It’s just been a gradual decline over the years,” said Steve. “Suddenly, we were to a point where dialysis became the next step.”

In March 2022, Gary came to UW Health in Madison for the first time and was evaluated for a kidney and pancreas transplant. The problem was, his heart wasn’t in good enough condition to handle a double organ transplant, so Gary had to undergo a quintuple bypass surgery first.

He got on the transplant wait list at the beginning of 2023, but it would be a while before he was able to get the gift of life. First, doctors noticed his ankles were swollen, so they switched him from peritoneal dialysis to hemodialysis to help Gary remove the water from his body. Then, a couple of times he received calls that organs had become available, only to learn that the pancreas wasn’t suitable for transplant.

Finally, he got a phone call on Feb. 19, 2024, that doctors believed they had the perfect kidney and pancreas for him. The following day, he received his double gift of life. “I was ready for surgery,” he said. “I was in good hands, because I knew where I was.”

After his surgery, Gary was like a new man. “He looked better than when he came out of his heart bypass surgery,” said Steve. “It was amazing how quickly he recovered.”

Before he became too sick to work, Gary was holding down two jobs—one at a food products factory, and one in a cranberry marsh. He’s eager to get back to work now that he no longer requires either dialysis or insulin.

“I want to get back into the routine of all my stuff,” he said. “I have a few years before I retire, and I want to make good use of this gift.”