Liver-Pancreas Transplant: Nicole's Story

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Nicole (pictured) underwent a combined liver/pancreas transplant at UW Hospital and Clinics.


An adventurous person who was eager to see the world, Nicole was enjoying her first trip abroad with her mother when she began to feel very ill.


Nicole pushed herself to keep going, bound and determined to see Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower. But when that day arrived, she didn't have the energy to go on the tour. Not wanting to ruin everyone's trip, Nicole refused to fly home early.


At that point, Nicole thought that maybe her illness was related to her battle with cystic fibrosis, but the symptoms were unusual and she was feeling worse every minute. On the flight, Nicole was Nicole, liver-pancreas transplant recipienthaving difficulty getting a good breath, but thought she was experiencing a sinus infection that had spread to her lungs. As the flight progressed, her health declined very rapidly.


With the help of two physicians that were on her flight, the flight attendant gave her spare oxygen and the plane was cleared for an emergency landing. Nicole's physician feared kidney failure, and Nicole was quickly transferred by ambulance to UW Hospital and Clinics.


Further testing proved worse than his suspicions – Nicole was in liver failure and her kidneys were suffering too. Her body struggled to process her daily medications, which had increased a year earlier when she was diagnosed with diabetes.


UW transplant surgeons decided a combined liver/pancreas transplant was the best action, saving Nicole's life by replacing her liver and ending her diabetes by replacing her pancreas. This decision put Nicole in the record books as the first person in Wisconsin to receive a combined liver/pancreas transplant.


Two new organs later, Nicole is back in action. She has started a new career and has a vision for a happy, healthy future that includes a return trip to Europe, and many more exciting adventures.