Pancreas transplant

Pancreas transplant changes Dina's life

For Dina Beese, normal hormonal changes have wreaked havoc with her Type 1 diabetes. It started when she first got her period at age 12—that was when she was diagnosed with the disease.

Dina Beese smiling

Then, for all three of her children, the hormones associated with nursing caused her to suffer from dangerously low drops in blood sugar.

While she enjoyed periods of relative stability while using an insulin pump, the Algonquin, IL, woman began to experience severe hypoglycemic episodes—times when her blood sugar dropped so low, she needed immediate medical attention. Some of those episodes occurred while she was driving and some happened overnight, requiring emergency medical technicians at her house.

When she was in her early 50s, Dina decided enough was enough and started researching possibilities to make her diabetes easier to manage. She learned that just two hours north of her, doctors at the UW Health Transplant Center in Madison, WI, were performing pancreas transplants and curing people of their diabetes. “I already knew about kidney/pancreas transplants, but I never had any problem with my kidneys,” she said. “I had no idea there was an option to have a pancreas transplant to help hard-to-manage diabetes.”

Dina called UW Health and spoke with Nancy Radke, the center’s pancreas transplant coordinator. Within just a few months, she underwent the necessary tests at University Hospital in Madison, and she was placed on the pancreas transplant wait list on July 29, 2020. On Aug. 24, she received the gift of life with a new pancreas.

“It was amazing to me that it happened so fast,” she said. “I remember taking all of my pump equipment off before the surgery. It was very surreal, knowing I would never have to put it on again. I came out of surgery, and I no longer had diabetes.”

As she recovered in the hospital, Dina appreciated the high level of care she received from the doctors, nurses, therapists and other staff members at University Hospital. “They were the greatest there,” she said.

Now, she’s enjoying the newfound freedom that comes with not having to worry about her blood sugar all the time. Dina has always enjoyed working in the garden, and now she can do so for more than 15 minutes at a time. She got married in June 2022, and she and her husband Tim enjoy the freedom of traveling through an airport security check without getting pulled off to the side to get her pump checked.

“I always told people I was living on borrowed time, because I knew the complications from diabetes were eventually going to catch up to me,” Dina said. “After getting this transplant, which is something I never thought was possible, I feel like for the first time I have a chance.”