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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Refusing to accept no as an option

Friday, May 9, 2008

A much healthier Raeann Driscoll, with new roommate Jack, is steadily improving after her Total Pancreatectomy and islet auto transplantation at University of Minnesota. Melinda Quasius Photo.
* Driscoll recovering after rare surgery

Taking no for an answer was not an option for Raeann Driscoll, and now she is much healthier for it.

The 15-year-old Driscoll suffered from pancreatitis for several months before traveling to the University of Minnesota in February for a rare surgical procedure.

Dr. David Sutherland performed a Total Pancreatectomy and islet auto transplantation on Driscoll Feb. 11, to relieve her of severe abdominal pain.

Most Pancreatectomy patients become diabetic after the procedure, because the insulin-producing islets are lost with the organ. But, with the islet transplant, patients like Driscoll would be less likely develop diabetes or be insulin dependant.

Sutherland was able to harvest 700,000 small islets during the operation and reinsert them into Driscoll's liver. She was able to end her insulin use after a month.

Slowly, Driscoll and her mother, Michele Altman, have been trying to reduce the amount of pain and other medications the teenager is on.

Raeann spent three weeks in the hospital, one for tests and two for the surgery and recovery. While in the hospital, staff and family were able to get her to eat small bites of food again, something that has not occurred for several months.

Her first meal at home was a specially prepared plate from Lucio's Mexican Restaurant. After a few bites, Driscoll had enough, and her first meal lasted a week.

Now, while at home, Driscoll has some Dairy Queen ice cream every night before bed to keep her insulin levels up. The milk proteins help her digest the sugars, so it is easier on her system.

Because of her limited ability to eat, Driscoll has dropped 80 pounds since the beginning of her illness.

She told her mother, "That's why God made me big, so I could handle this." If Driscoll was a smaller size, she would have needed a feeding tube.

The new body image hasn't adjusted to the new body, but Driscoll is excited to shop for new clothes, including a bathing suit.

Swimming and cycling will help her build her strength up for daily activities, including homework.

She has started homebound work, with teachers coming every Tuesday and Wednesday to bring her back up to speed. Right now, Driscoll is working on Biology and English, and hopes to finish the first semester of work by June.

With help from eventual summer school and NovaNet classes, Driscoll should be able to catch up with her classmates and even graduate with honors.

Her goals extend beyond the classroom, though. Driscoll hopes to get active again soon, and "just be normal. I don't want to be sick anymore."

But the road to a normal, healthy life is long and there is still a long way to go for Raeann.

She will have a follow-up appointment in Minnesota May 20, and recurring appointments every three months for a year after her surgery.

Then, she will be required only to do yearly follow-ups.

Driscoll is also participating in a study on islets in hopes of helping others deal with the experience she had.

Altman said students at Northview High School and employees of the City of Brazil raised funds for Raeann to make the trip to Minnesota and search for some new, better fitting clothes.

Along with Northview and Brazil employees, her sister Alyssa provided emotional support during the difficult weeks of recovery.

With Driscoll back in the swing of things, her thoughts are turning to her ideal first full meal: Steak Gorgonzola from Olive Garden.

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