Six days before my 45th anniversary with Type 1 Diabetes (age 11, the day after Halloween 1966) and about 25 years after being diagnosed with progressive kidney disease, I had the most extraordinary thing happen to me on Oct. 25.
I was cured of both.
My creatinine levels have gone from a high of 7.0, or about 8 percent kidney function, to 1.4 — that is in the normal range.
My blood sugar levels, without insulin injections for the past 10 days, range in the low 100s, with the normal being 80 to 100, with expectations that blood sugar and kidney function could continue to improve.
I've yet to reach my baseline.
This all resulted from a six-hour surgery -- about eight hours when preparation and the final of 25 stitches was completed -- during which I received kidney-pancreas transplants from a team of impressive surgeons at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute at UPMC Montefiore.
This proved to be a challenge for the days after the transplants due to requirements that I get no nutrition other than saline water for five days to allow the new pancreas to rest. I also had to keep a tube down my throat for those same five days to clear out my stomach. Another discomfort was wearing a catheter to empty fluids from the new kidney and old bladder for two weeks after the transplants.
Transplants come with attendant challenges.
I'm currently on 10 prescriptions, including two anti-rejection medications that have killed my appetite and desire to sleep. As a result, I've lost 15 pounds in as many days. (Good news: I've reached my ideal BMI).
With anti-rejection drugs that kill the immune system to prevent rejection of the new organs come responsibilities to avoid infection, keep hands and body as clean as possible and avoid, at least for the next few months, large crowds, sick people and anything that can infect, including fungus and mold -- compost pits, sick pets, the cat's litter box, and people who recently received live-virus vaccines including the nasal flu vaccine.
My coloring has returned. My wife and daughters, who have worked like crazy to keep the house clean, visited me regularly at the hospital, then have baby-sat me and gotten me to all my appointments now that I'm home (after seven days in the hospital).
So far, so good.
But it still hasn't struck me completely how lucky I am and thankful to Dr. Henke Tan and his most excellent team of surgeons, doctors, UPMC nurses and support staff. I must continue taking my medications and take every precaution to avoid organ rejection. But after 45 years of dealing daily and hourly with diabetes and 25 years of kidney disease, I'm up to the task of taking meds in timely fashion and following necessary protocols.
And after taking daily insulin injections for 45 years and successfully working to avoid dialysis for the past 16 years, I can only marvel at the prospects of being cured.
More so than ever, I am a true believer in the miracles of modern medicine and have nothing but praise and respect for the UPMC transplant team who saved my life and gave me the rarest opportunity of curing two vicious diseases.
I can only revel about my new situation, my new world, and the opportunity, especially the cure of diabetes that I never expected, to live a long, healthy life.