John Berry Lawson has a new, healthy pancreas and a new chance at life. The 40-year-old Brazil man was born with diabetes. His brittle condition would not allow him to control the disease even taking four insulin injections a day.
The disorder took a severe toll on John's body. After years of repeated episodes of extreme blood sugar fluctuations, John developed visual problems, heart and circulatory complications and most recently, kidney deterioration. Finally his doctor told John that without a pancreas transplant, he'd probably not live more than a few more years.
The father of two went through the necessary paper work and medical procedures required to prepare for a transplant. John felt like he'd been given a death sentence, however, when his insurance company suddenly denied coverage for the procedure.
It took four appeals and nearly a year before the insurance company, without explanation, changed their mind. In March they said they would pay for the surgery and John could proceed.
By then his condition had deteriorated even more so he was placed at the top of the list for the next transplant when a compatible donor pancreas became available. His medical condition prevented him from returning to work as a railroad conductor for CSX Transportation. All he could do was stay at home and wait to hear from the hospital.
Wednesday, John got the call. On his way home from an appointment with a diabetic doctor in St. Louis, John received a call from the Indiana University Transplant Center at University Hospital in Indianapolis.
He didn't even stop at home. Notifying his parents and family by cell phone, John drove straight to Indianapolis. He got there about 8:30 p.m. After some testing and a tissue match came back positive, John was taken to surgery at 2:30 a.m. Thursday. The successful pancreas transplant was completed about 6:30 a.m.
John's father, Richard Lawson, reported by phone Thursday night that Dr. Fridel said it appeared that the surgery was a complete success.
"Berry's blood sugar was 368 before surgery," Richard said. "When he came out of surgery, it was 200 and at 6 p.m. it had dropped to 150."
John is being given nutrition by IV fluids. He requires no insulin as the new pancreas is doing its job. Although he'll have to take rejection medication indefinitely, the doctor said there is no reason why John can't live a normal life the rest of his life.
"Berry says he's not hurting too bad," his father said. "He's relieved and real happy that he's finally getting a chance to live a normal life."
When asked how he felt, as a parent, Richard responded with emotion evident in his voice.
"Words can't describe it," he said. "I get choked up every time I think about it. You'd have to live with this as long as we have to know what it's like, to know how it feels. We'd been told he wouldn't live past 21 or 22. He's 40 now and has a new lease on life. It's miraculous."
John Berry Lawson is celebrating his independence day.