Islet Cell Transplant: Nancy's Story

Nancy (pictured, with husband Bob) underwent an islet cell transplant at UW Hospital and Clinics.


Nancy, islet transplant recipient, with husband Bob

Nancy, more than most people, truly grasps the simple beauty of a walk on a warm autumn day with her husband Bob and dog Buddy.

A life-long diabetic, Nancy's days were filled with frequent blood tests. She was dependent on insulin to try to maintain appropriate blood-sugar levels. Like many diabetics, Nancy's kidneys wore out, and she received a transplant with a kidney donated by her husband. But Nancy was not a typical diabetic.

She also suffered from hyperglycemic episodes that cause her blood-sugar levels to crash without warning. These crashes cause blackouts and can be similar to seizures.

In an effort to end these episodes, and her dependence on insulin, Nancy received islet cell transplants. Islet cells are sugar-sensing cells, found in the pancreas, that release insulin. In the islet cell transplant process, islet cells are extracted from a donated pancreas, processed and introduced into a vein near the recipient's liver.

Following two successful islet cell transplants, enough islet cells reproduced in Nancy's body to stabilize her blood-sugar levels. Now Nancy's life no longer includes constant blood-sugar level testing and unexpected blackouts and seizures. She can enjoy simple everyday things like a walk down a beautiful path on a sunny day, and greets each day with gratitude for the organ donors who made her new lease on life possible.