Dear sweet child:
You see, sweet child, they won’t let me
It’s the doctors. They have a code of ethics to follow. “Do no harm” is kind of a big deal to them.
There is a surgery to remove the pancreas. It is called a pancreatectomy. It does exist.
The fact is, we all need our pancreas. It does more than just create insulin, much more.
A pancreatectomy not only causes the person to become diabetic (insulin dependent, like type 1), but they will also have to take enzyme supplements (the pancreas is where our digestive enzymes are made).
Doctors simply will not take an organ from a healthy, living individual to give to someone else. While I may prefer to take insulin and enzyme supplements instead of you, the doctors disagree.
What about organ donors?
I know what you’re thinking, if I can’t give you my pancreas, why can’t someone else who has passed away? Technically, they can. In extreme cases, pancreas transplants have been performed. But it’s a last resort.
Pancreas transplants are most commonly done when the recipient has other organs that are damaged. Most commonly, the kidneys. Since they’re getting a transplant anyway, they sometimes do the pancreas too. I truly hope you are never in this situation.
It’s exceptionally rare for children to get a pancreas transplant. In fact, the only cases I’ve heard of are children who are allergic to the very insulin that is needed to keep them alive. Thank goodness that is rare and not the case with you.
Besides, a pancreas transplant isn’t really a “cure”
Because, well, the pancreas isn’t really the problem… is it?
Yes, it works for a while.
But T1D is an autoimmune disease. Even if you had a new, perfectly functioning pancreas, it’s your immune system that worries me.
Doctors still don’t know why the immune system attacks the beta cells, causing T1D.
Often, months or years after people get a pancreas transplant, their immune system attacks the new pancreas causing them to become type 1 diabetic all over again.
And there’s your long-term health to consider
Anyone who has a transplant needs to go on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their life.
Do you know what that means?
It means, in an effort to keep your body from rejecting the new pancreas, the doctors would suppress your immune system.
Your immune system has a big job. It keeps you healthy. Yes, it screwed up when it attacked your beta cells, but most of the time it does its job.
When your immune system is suppressed, you are more susceptible to infections and viruses. And your body has no defenses to fight them off.
As much as I’m scared of “dead in bed“, seizures, and DKA, I can’t justify putting you in a position where the common cold could take you from me.
I would give you my pancreas…
But I can’t. So instead, I will give you all the support I can give.
If you need me to take over diabetes care because you’re burnt out, I will. It doesn’t matter if you’re a child living under my roof, a college student coming home for a visit, or an adult with your own family. If you need help, I’m here.
If you can’t afford your supplies when you get older, tell me. I will do everything in my power to get the supplies you need. Always know you can come to me.
If you need anything, I am here to help and support.
But I’m sorry my love, I can’t give you my pancreas. Believe me when I say, I would do it in a second, if only it were possible.
While pancreas transplants are not usually the answer, doctors and researchers are constantly working on finding better treatments and ultimately, a cure. Amazing things are being done with islet cell transplants and there are several clinical trials being done that are very promising.
Are you following any T1D research? Who do you think is closest to finding a cure? Leave a comment telling us about it! And don’t forget to head to the Carb Counting Mama Facebook page and “like” it.