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Woman Receives Pancreas Transplant, Life Changes

Lisa Stiffler
Lisa Stiffler, 54, lay on the kitchen floor. Her teenage daughter stood over her – her voice filled with panic and urgency. Lisa’s blood sugar had gotten low – again. “Mom, are you OK? Mom, eat this snack – it will help!” Since age five, Lisa suffered from Type 1 diabetes. Raised in rural Ogilville, Indiana, she had the constant daily juggling act of monitoring her blood sugar, taking insulin and watching everything she ate. Lisa’s parents enrolled her in a summer camp with other children managing diabetes. There, she learned about her limitations. At age 26, Lisa gave birth. Still, she suffered from aggressive diabetic management while pregnant. Many times, when her blood sugar got low, Lisa crawled to the kitchen fridge for orange juice or honey – anything that could help. She felt like she was living in a fog and describes the difficulty to process and think logically. Lisa became a registered nurse at age 20. Her desire to help others brought great joy, and as night fell at the end of each shift in the hospital – the lights illuminated and sparkled in her eyes. But living with diabetes – she felt that her day-to-day activities were limited. She didn’t have boundless energy. She felt tired after a few minutes of playing with her grandchild. And she worried she’d collapse from exhaustion at any moment. “I didn’t want to live like this anymore,” says Lisa. “I met Dr. Tim Taber when I managed an at-home dialysis program, and he later became my doctor. He talked with me about the option of a pancreas transplant.” “Lisa had Type 1 diabetes and a pancreas transplant would offer long-term success living a normal life with her family and doing the things she loves to do,” says Tim Taber, MD. Lisa was put on the list for a transplant and would wait for a pancreas to become available. On July 13, 2009, she got the call she was waiting for. Here’s what she remembers: walking into IU Health Transplant Center to smiling faces and upbeat voices, feeling light and airy, stunned, elated, a sense of survivor’s guilt and a range of other emotions pouring out as she meandered slowly down the halls of the hospital. As a result of the pancreas transplant, Lisa no longer worries that her blood sugar is going to drop. Lisa’s glucose levels have remained at a healthy level, she was taken off insulin and has no dietary restrictions. She enjoys gardening, pulling weeds and planting flowers. For Lisa, it was hard to imagine life without insulin, but a successful pancreas transplant gave her the freedom to soar. She now marvels at life. “To think I can go to sleep at night and not worry that my blood sugar is going to drop – it’s almost like a weight has been lifted,” says Lisa.

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