Part 2 of 2
John Lawson has suffered from diabetes since birth. He's on a waiting list at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago for a pancreas transplant.
If it comes in time, the surgery could "cure" his diabetes and give him the normal life he has always longed for. A continued delay could allow the disease to destroy his kidneys necessitating a kidney transplant as well as a pancreas.
John was placed on the transplant list at Northwestern Memorial Hospital on March 1, 2003. He will be notified by telephone whenever a pancreas becomes available, day or night. The usual waiting time for a pancreas transplant is two years.
"Hopefully it won't be that long," John said. "I'm ecstatic about the possibility of having the transplant. I just wish they could have done it sooner."
Four options for pancreas transplantation are currently available at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Two involve kidney transplants also, so they aren't appropriate for John's situation.
One of the other two, Islet cell transplantation, is experimental. The islet cells (cells that produce insulin) from a cadaver donor pancreas are isolated and injected into the blood stream of the liver where the islet cells become implanted and begin to produce insulin.
With the addition of more sophisticated anti-rejection medications, islet cell transplantation may become the preferred treatment of the future.
The preferred option for John is the Pancreas Transplant Alone type. Actually, the cadaver pancreas will be "piggy-backed" onto John's pancreas and both will function. The old pancreas will continue to secrete enzymes necessary for digestion. The new one will produce the insulin.
The cost for the transplant surgery, including the pre-surgery work up and two years of post surgery follow up care, will probably exceed $200,000. Insurance will cover 85 percent of that. John was told to anticipate his out of pocket costs at $45,000 to $70,000.
A trust fund has been established at the Riddell National Bank to help John cover his medical expenses. Any one wanting to help may send checks to the John Lawson Transplant Fund and mail to Riddell National Bank, PO Box 340, Brazil, IN, 47834.
"If the surgery goes all right," John said, "the new pancreas starts producing insulin immediately. When I wake up I will no longer be diabetic and will not have to take any more insulin shots.
"I'll need follow up tests every month for two years to monitor my condition and make sure every thing stabilizes," he continued. "But after that the only medication I will have to take is a daily anti-rejection pill.
"I hope I can get the transplant as soon as possible. If I don't the disease can eventually shut down my other organs.
"After this experience," John said, "I'd like to donate my organs if anything happens to me. I will be given the gift of love and I'd like to return the favor.
"I hope this keeps me alive. I want to watch my kids grow up. When I wake up in the morning, I thank God because I get to see another day."
Any diabetic who would like to contact John may do so by e-mail at email@example.com.