Kidney-Pancreas Transplant: Stacey's Story
Stacey is adjusting to life without diabetes thanks to a pancreas/kidney transplant from UW Health's Transplant Program. Learn more about Pancreas Transplant
Stacey Berkman has seen the inside of more medical facilities than many physicians. When she became gravely ill in 2015 due to complications from Type 1 diabetes, she traveled from medical center to medical center in search of the right transplant program. Finally, she arrived at the UW Health Transplant Program in Madison, Wisconsin, and felt like she had found a place where the staff could help her. She received the gift of life with a combined pancreas/kidney transplant on September 18, 2016.
“The UW Health Transplant Program gave me a second chance at life,” says Stacey.
Diagnosed at age 9, Stacey, now 34 and living in Connecticut, experienced many complications — including retinopathy — due to her diabetes, but she was very good about taking care of herself. When she was in her late 20s, her nephrologist told her she was in the beginning stages of kidney failure and should watch her numbers closely. But, busily preparing for her wedding in May 2015, she didn’t notice that she was becoming more ill. By September 2015, her doctor said it was time to undergo evaluation for a kidney transplant. That was when her ordeal began.
A friend of the family suggested she look into the possibility of a combined pancreas/kidney transplant. Though her endocrinologist wasn’t in favor of it, she and her parents did their own research and, while she underwent dialysis treatments, they all began looking for the right facility to perform a combined transplant. It wasn’t easy: Some of the facilities they found didn’t perform pancreas transplants, others used outdated methods and still others didn’t feel clean to Stacey. She finally found a program she liked and got on the wait list there, but the program shut down before she could receive a transplant. At her seventh transplant evaluation, she met a doctor who had completed his fellowship at University Hospital, and he advised her that she would receive a transplant quicker in Madison than she would at his facility.
At the UW Health Transplant Program, Stacey felt very comfortable with all the doctors and nurses.
“Other programs had turned me into a nervous wreck,” she says, “but the team I met in Madison reassured me and lowered my anxiety level.” After one false alarm (she received a call, but then learned that the organs that had been procured were not viable for transplant), she finally received her long-awaited gift of life.
Now, Stacey is adjusting to life without diabetes — although she ruefully admits that she still tests her blood sugar. The girl whose mother once gave her a penny for each piece of Halloween candy because she couldn’t eat any of it was able to enjoy the candy-filled holiday for the first time last year.
In the time since her transplant, Stacey’s family became philanthropic donors to the UW Health Transplant Program and spread the word to as many people as possible. “The staff at UW Health saved my life,” says Stacey, “and I want people to know that. I was given this gift of life and I want to do right by my donor.”
If you would like to join Stacey and her family by giving to the future of transplant at the UW Health Transplant Program, go to uwhealth.org/givehope