Living without diabetes
Rett Pritchard, 41, of Barnwell, S.C., became diabetic in the second grade. He knew his pancreas had shut down, and he grew up with the insulin shots, fatigue and the sick feeling associated with fluctuating blood sugar levels. He was resigned to daily insulin calculations for everything he ate and accepted the disease’s damage to his eyesight and his heart.
In 2006, Rett began to notice that his kidneys weren’t functioning properly. By 2007, he was on dialysis and on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. He didn’t think about having his pancreas replaced until an MUSC surgeon discussed the possibility of a dual transplant.
“I was pretty scared about what he told us — about the potential complications — and I didn’t think I would do it,” said Rett. “But my wife convinced me that getting a pancreas transplant would regulate my blood sugar and give me the freedom to live a normal life.”
Ultimately, Rett opted for the dual transplant and in the fall of 2008 he had the surgery, which took approximately nine hours. His recovery was relatively pain-free, and having a new kidney and pancreas changed his life dramatically.
“Technically, I do not have diabetes anymore, thanks to the new pancreas,” he explained. “I still monitor my blood sugar daily, but I feel so much better without the fluctuations. I have energy that I’ve never had before. Plus, I have the freedom and the flexibility to travel, exercise and eat pretty much what I want without having to worry about needles or how much insulin to take.”
His experience at MUSC exceeded his expectations.
“I’ve been in hospitals a lot during the past five years and my treatment at MUSC was unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve never known people like that who were so quick to help you. They treated me like I was a newborn baby.”
Rett knows that his new pancreas won’t last forever, but that doesn’t phase him.
“If I get one year of freedom, it will have been worth it because of how wonderful it’s made my life.”