Stories of Hope
In May of 1955 my life was changed forever with the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. I was forced to become an adult long before I supposed to as I faced insulin shots, a low carbohydrate diet and the possibilities of some horrible complications like blindness, kidney disease, heart disease, amputations, loss of sexual function and even early death.
I was bound and determined to always find a way to beat this disease. Whenever new diabetes technology was introduced I was in the front of the line to use them. I went from urine testing to blood sugar testing, from insulin shots to pump therapy and from a passive approach to treating diabetes to an aggressive approach.
Never did I imagine that I would be given the opportunity to be cured. From the day I was diagnosed I was told there would be a cure in only five years. Five became ten, ten became twenty, twenty became thirty and thirty became forty.
It was in my 47th year with diabetes that I was introduced to the team at the Diabetes Research Institute in Miami. They explained a process that involved the transplanting of cadaver islet cells into the portal vein of a type 1 diabetic that would produce insulin in the liver.
Islet cell transplantation was actually a failed science until a group in Edmonton Canada in the year 2000 designed a steroid-free drug protocol specifically for islet transplantation that was used to eliminate rejection. This drug protocol is known as the “Edmonton Protocol”.
In 2001 the Diabetes Research Institute in Miami began an FDA protocol for 16 type 1 diabetics who all had one thing in common, hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) unawareness. All of the 16 patients were given between one and three infusions of islet cells. All of the patients were treated with the “Edmonton” drug therapy. This procedure was accomplished by catheterizing the portal vein leading into the liver and delivering the islets from a cadaver donor into the patients liver via an I.V. drip.
So, is all of this space-aged science hocus-pocus or does islet cell transplantation really work? I can answer that question from first hand experience because I am one of the 16 fortunate patients in the DRI study.
My first transplant was on March 15, 2002 and that procedure reduced my insulin requirement by 33%. The second was performed on May 30, 2002 and for 6 months I did not require one drop of insulin. My third transplant was on March 22, 2003 and my blood sugars have been perfect ever since. I have not had a hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) episode in over two years and I feel wonderful. With islet cell transplantation my diabetes has been reversed!!!!!!!
We have proven without a question of a doubt that transplanting insulin-producing cells into the liver of a diabetic patient can reverse diabetes. The problem however, is the lack of donor cells. The need for stem cells which can be trained to be insulin producing cells are desperately needed so we can transplant children with diabetes and adults who now suffer from some awful diabetes complications.
Please support the California Stem Cell Research Initiative, so that someday all who suffer from insulin-dependent diabetes can have their diabetes reversed.