FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Lori Fulps began taking insulin injections for Type I diabetes when she was 13 years old. After 40 years of shots, her diabetes was so difficult to manage that she often needed five insulin shots a day. But that all changed recently when Fulps became the first patient to receive a simultaneous pancreas-kidney transplant at Medical City Fort Worth.
About 1,000 pancreas transplants are performed annually in the United States, with 80 percent of those performed as part of a simultaneous pancreas-kidney transplant in patients with end stage kidney disease and diabetes, like Fulps, according to Bala Sankar, MD, chairman of transplant for the Medical City Fort Worth Transplant Institute.
“This combined transplant essentially cures a patient’s diabetes, restoring normal glucose levels,” Dr. Sankar explained. “It also stops the progression of complications associated with diabetes, while eliminating the need for the patient to undergo hours of dialysis each week due to kidney failure. It can greatly improve a patient’s quality of life.”
Fulps said she is looking forward to “a whole new world” where she can lead a more normal life. Her diabetes had led to kidney failure, requiring dialysis for the past three years. With a working pancreas, she no longer needs insulin shots, and her new kidney has eliminated the need for dialysis.
“Now, my family won’t have to worry about me so much,” said Fulps, who lives in Kennedale. “They were always worried about me because I live alone. With my diabetes, I never knew when I went to sleep at night if my blood sugar was going to drop. I would often set my alarm to wake up in the night and test my blood. One night, I had an insulin reaction and woke up to find paramedics in my house. My neighbor, who has a key to my house, had called them for me. Because of my blood sugar drop, I didn’t even remember it until they had me stabilized.”
“We are pleased to add this combined transplant option to Medical City Fort Worth’s kidney transplant program, which ranks first in the nation for survival outcomes and has the shortest wait time for patients receiving a deceased donor kidney transplant,” added Ashraf Reyad, MD, surgical director of kidney transplant at Medical City Fort Worth.
Dr. Reyad and Matthew Mulloy, MD, surgical director of pancreas transplant, led the Medical City Fort Worth transplant team in performing Fulps’ pancreas-kidney transplant.
More than 95,000 people are on the U.S. transplant waiting list for a kidney and 892 for a pancreas, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.