Blessed Assurance: Success Despite the Odds

by Jacquie Lewis-Kemp, Author & Health Coach for Living life with diabetes and organ transplants, rather than limiting life because of them.

Browsing Posts tagged pancreas transplant

After living with diabetes for 32 years of my life, I received a pancreas transplant. Doctors don’t routinely manage diabetes with a pancreas transplant, however because I also needed and received a kidney transplant, my transplant team’s full plan of treatment for my kidney failure was to do a follow-on pancreas transplant. The pancreas transplant would normalize my blood sugar and best protect my new kidney.

 

I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 7. And so I grew up as a normal active child, but quickly learned a diabetes routine that my parents created for me. I also grew up with a very remote and improbable goal of a cure for diabetes. My diabetes would likely be something that I would need to manage for the rest of my life.

 

It has been 10 years since my pancreas transplant and no, I’m not cured of diabetes. Instead I have diabetes treated with a pancreas transplant. “Diabetes treated with a pancreas transplant” because if anything were to happen to that pancreas, I would return to insulin injections and my body has endured 32 years of elevated blood sugars and insulin dependence.

 

Recently I was reminded of my body’s condition as it relates to diabetes. On my way to the airport for a health coaching network event, I noticed a familiar sight in my field of vision–a floater.  A floater is debris or possibly blood floating in the vitreous fluid of the eye. I was sure that I had a broken blood vessel bleeding into my eye.  I called my retina specialist’s office and they agreed to fit me in to have it checked out.  I missed my flight and went immediately to the retina specialist. At that point, they couldn’t even see the bleeder. So I continued my travel plans standby.

 

At my connection in Chicago, my vision had gotten worse. I could barely see the signs directing me to the gate to board my flight to Las Vegas. By the time of my presentation I couldn’t even see my slides on the projector screen. I knew the material so I winged it.

 

I was baffled and somewhat afraid because doctors assured me that my long term complications would freeze right where they were after the pancreas transplant. They wouldn’t reverse, but they wouldn’t get any worse.

 

At home I returned to the doctor and he was able to diagnose what happened. This bleeder was not a new blood vessel that had grown onto my retina, as in diabetic retinopathy. This was in fact an old blood vessel that had been treated 15 or more years ago with laser. Apparently in the normal aging process the vitreous fluid in the eye pulls away from the retina. When this occurred in my eye, it disturbed the blood vessel treated with laser, causing it to bleed again.

 

And so the treatment was to wait for my vitreous fluid to absorb the blood that was blocking and clouding my vision. Here’s a description of what this bleeder looked like:

Day 1

A black string hanging from the top of my eye that remained in   my field of vision wherever I looked

Day 2

Several black strings hanging from the top of my field of   vision.

Day 3

Fewer black strings hanging, but the rest of my vision was like   opening your eyes under lake water.

Day 4

Black strings were turning brown with smaller dots around it;   vision was like it was foggy outside.

Day 5

Very few brown strings remain, able to see computer, but felt   like there was soap scum on my eyeballs.

Day 6

A few brown strings at very top of my field of vision; other   vision very clear.

 

Amazing, they tell me that the eye is the fastest healing part of the body!

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Enjoy this video as transplant recipients say thank you.

Wolverines for Life encourages you to sign up to be an organ and tissue donor, donate blood and get screened for bone marrow donation.

You can be a hero, and save a life … and it’s easy to do. For more information go to www.wolverinesforlife.org

 

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It’s not often that I get involved with my husband’s work. My husband is a funeral director and I have lost both of my parents. Empathizing with families who have lost loved ones, brings a familiar heaviness onto my heart–one that takes a long time to remove, and so I try not to become too involved in my husband’s work.

 

But when he has the honor to work with a family of a person who has donated the gift of life, as a two time organ recipient and member of a donor family myself, I can’t help but feel kinship. Whether or not I know anyone affected by the donated organs, I feel compelled to thank the family . . .  unofficially . . . on behalf of the lives that have been saved and enhanced . . .as a part of my unofficial transplant recipient family.

 

If you know anyone with an organ transplant, you notice a special glimmer in our eyes when we speak to one another.  We all have a special kinship. Not just those of us with kidney transplants, but livers, hearts, lungs, pancreases. We don’t discriminate among transplant recipients–even bone, blood, skin or tissue recipients are cousins of sorts.

 

As 2012 comes to a close, my husband received such an honor. I couldn’t help empathizing with the donor family and how courageous they were in giving the gift of life or carrying out the wishes of the donor to give the gift of life.  I also imagined the other story of the amazing gifts of life that were given to make 2013 a very special New Year.

 

Please share your gift of life story, whether as a donor family or organ or tissue recipient.

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Vita Redita (Life Restored) Gala, Silent & Live Auctions Support UM Transplant Center.

Join us at the 10thannual Vita Redita Gala Dinner & Auction in support of the University of Michigan Transplant Center.

 

We have some very exciting things planned for the evening; including a chance to win a one of a kind diamond, custom made jewelry, a flight on a B-17 Bomber, Suite tickets to the Michigan Homecoming game, premium wine and more.

 

We still have seats available. Please consider inviting your friends and family to join you for this fun filled evening supporting a great cause.

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This week I celebrate two anniversaries. The first was May 27, 2012. My husband and I celebrated 23 years of marriage. Wow, that’s a long time, especially for a 25 year old, huh? 😉 On May 30 I celebrate 10 years of living with a pancreas transplant.

I would never have imagined that I would one day not have to take an insulin shot! When I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 7, my grandfather told me while I was in the hospital that we would “pray it [diabetes] away”. My parents worried that I might not learn to take care of myself and instead hope for a miracle.

I had the most wonderful parents who continually made sure that I understood that I could do anything that I wanted to and be anything that I wanted to be as long as I worked hard at it. So instead of sitting by waiting for a miracle cure from God, I worked hard in school and hard at work.

Despite my hard work, my kidneys failed. My brother volunteered to save my life and donate his left kidney. My transplant team had an even more complete plan to treat my kidney disease. Their full plan of action was to perform the kidney transplant to end dialysis, and a pancreas transplant to end the cause of the kidney failure in the first place.

And so, on May 29, 2002, I took my last insulin injection. And on May 30, 2002 my new pancreas provided enough insulin to move glucose from my bloodstream to my cells, and has done so for the last 10 years.

So back to what Granddaddy said. Did he pray my diabetes away? Sure he did, not through a miraculous prong on the head, but through technology and medical science. And despite the fact that Granddaddy has been gone for 28 years, that doesn’t mean that 2002 wasn’t in God’s time.

Actually, I still consider myself diabetic. My body lived through 32 years of diabetes and I still manage some of the long term complications. I received a bronze medal for living with diabetes for 25 years from an insulin manufacturer. Do you think that they will give me the 50 year medal without having bought their product?

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The Affordable Care Act, signed and passed in March of last year, holds many benefits for those both pre- and post-transplant. While you may already be familiar with some of the Act’s immediate benefits, it’s in your interest to understand how long-term initiatives may improve your healthcare coverage in the future.

General benefits to look for

If you have been denied insurance due to a pre-existing condition—such as a history of transplant or kidney disease—the Act is creating ways to help1,2:

It removes lifetime coverage limits and sets more reasonable annual limits

As of September 2010, it eliminated pre-existing conditions as a reason for denying coverage to, or setting high premiums on, individuals up to 19 years of age

Effective 2014, it will eliminate pre-existing conditions as a reason for denying coverage to, or setting high premiums on, individuals 19 years and older

Your options until 20143

Most significantly, the Act has created the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP)—which may provide you affordable, non–income-based coverage if you’ve been uninsured or denied insurance for at least 6 months due to a pre-existing condition.4

Standard PCIP benefits include primary, specialty, and preventative care; hospitalization services; and prescription drug coverage.4 Depending on where you live, these benefits may either be managed by the federal government or the state.4 Click the map for benefits, coverage rates, and enrollment details specific to your state of residence5:

If your PCIP program is run by the state, you will be offered a single plan by that state; but if it is run by the federal government, you will have the option of selecting from the following 3 plans6-8:

Be sure to read the 2011 PCIP Brochure and the PCIP Benefits Summary before discussing your options with a financial coordinator or PCIP representative.

Your access to coverage is critical to your transplant health. With the help of the Affordable Care Act, you are now many steps closer to ensuring a successful journey ahead.

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