[The Brazil Times nameplate] Fair ~ 70°F  
High: 74°F ~ Low: 49°F
Friday, May 6, 2016

Area youth deals with debilitating, painful disease

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Michelle Griffin stands next to daughter Raeann Driscoll. The Northview High School freshman has been bedridden since the second week of school because of chronic pancreatitis.
Beginning high school is tough enough, but imagine trying to be a normal teenager while struggling with debilitating pain.

Raeann Driscoll began feeling pain in her stomach in spring 2007, and started seeing doctors about her discomfort.

A test showed her gallbladder was barely functioning, so a surgeon removed the organ.

But the pain did not go away -- it actually got worse.

She pushed through June marching band practice and summer gym, but the pain was only increasing.

She was diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, and doctors put her on a regiment of drugs, trying to find a way to minimize the pain.

Driscoll worked hard to ignore the pain during the first two weeks of her freshman year at Northview High School, but it became too much.

She left the marching band, her friends and her schoolwork and has been bedridden since.

Driscoll saw specialist after specialist, but no doctor could alleviate the pain in her abdomen.

In late October, her mother, Michele Griffin, received a tip from Council woman Nancy White while at work at City Hall. White knew of a man in the county who had his pancreas removed to stop the pain from the disease.

Removal of the pancreas means the patient will have diabetes, because islets in the organ produce insulin. But the man had a rare procedure done in Minnesota, called a Total Pancreatectomy (TP) and islet auto transplantation (IAT).

The procedure removes the pancreas, but separates out the insulin-producing cells, which are then transplanted into the liver.

Dr. David Sutherland at the University of Minnesota pioneered the surgery in the late 1970s, and 74 percent of patients have seen the transplanted islets function well enough to stay insulin independent.

When Griffin heard about Sutherland's procedure, she called the university, and was able to schedule a consultation for Driscoll the next week. By this time, Raeann was extremely discouraged.

Because the disease was caught early enough, Sutherland said Driscoll is a good candidate for a successful procedure.

The surgery is scheduled for Feb. 11 in Minnesota. The family will need to be at the university's hospital for a week beforehand to monitor Driscoll and perform tests.

"Dr. Sutherland said she'd have her life back," Griffin said.

The hope of being a normal teenager again keeps Driscoll positive. She misses her cats, Lillith and Sally, which live at her dad's house, and she hasn't gone shopping since summer.

"I really miss my friends," Driscoll said.

Before getting sick, Driscoll competed in Destination Imagination competitions and played softball.

"I love playing it, but I'm not the best player," she said.

Driscoll is contemplating becoming a bed and breakfast manager or a wedding dress consultant.

First, though, she must make the journey to Minnesota. Griffin said they are hoping to fly, because while driving to the consultation, Driscoll could feel every bump in the road.

It took two days to complete the nine-hour trip.

Driscoll will need to take some time to recover, as well as physical therapy to regain the muscle loss from being bedridden.

When she is feeling well enough, Driscoll is excited to go shopping for new clothes with her friends, especially since she has lost almost 60 pounds because of the illness.

Driscoll is planning a spa day for her 16th birthday in July, and being a Food Network Fan, wants to go out to a fancy dinner with her dad in Indianapolis.

Her guidance counselor at Northview said, with summer school and NovaNet, Driscoll still could graduate with her class.

There are some hurdles to clear, first.

Driscoll is, "really, really excited, but extremely nervous" about the surgery. She's concerned about how large the scar will be, possibly from sternum to belly button.

She is also worried about becoming diabetic. It is a real possibility, and Driscoll is scared of needles.

Driscoll's father has also felt some apprehension about the surgery. The University of Minnesota is one of three hospitals performing the surgery, and local gastroenterologists have not accepted to procedure.

According to Griffin, he was hesitant to go forward with a surgery that local doctors would not even suggest the patients.

There are financial factors, as well. Insurance will cover the surgery, but the family is concerned of financing the airfare and hotel costs for the week.

Griffin and Driscoll are hopeful Raeann's struggle with the disease and her surgery can help others with chronic pancreatitis find options to manage their pain.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: