Life-changing Procedure for Chronic Pancreatitis

Life-changing Procedure for Chronic Pancreatitis

Life-changing Procedure for Chronic Pancreatitis

Richard Sutton knew something was wrong roughly four years ago after going to the hospital a third time for an acute attack of pancreatitis.

In total, he had four attacks within eight months. After the third attack, his doctor told him it was chronic pancreatitis.

Richard had been battling stomach problems his entire life, but with pancreatitis, the pain was excruciating. He could feel the pain in the upper left quadrant of his stomach and his upper left back. It was severe pain that immobilized him to the point that he couldn’t move and was doubled over. He would vomit anytime he tried to drink liquids.

His physician tried to place a stent in the pancreatic duct to relieve symptoms, but there was twisting in Richard’s pancreas and the bile wouldn’t drain. The stent only stayed in four-to-six weeks the first time and didn’t work. In February 2017, the doctor tried a second time, but his pancreas had so much calcification on it, the stent again wouldn’t work.

At this point, Richard was referred to the Pancreas Disease Center at Jewish Hospital and met Medical Director, Dr. Michael Hughes for help. That’s where he learned about total pancreatectomy with islet auto-transplantation procedure. During the summer of 2017, he received news he’d receive the surgery, where his pancreas would be removed and the insulin-producing islet cells would be isolated in a cleanroom facility, and then infused into his liver, helping reduce the severity of diabetes after removal of the pancreas.

While Richard is now a diabetic, he already had prediabetes before the surgery and was told in advance of the condition. It was also explained to him that without the procedure, he’d have to have his pancreas completely removed within two to three years.

After his September 2017 surgery, Richard recovered in the hospital for about a week, and was able to get back to his landscaping business in around four to five weeks. He didn’t have any complications, and the chronic pain from the pancreas was gone, although he still experienced some phantom pain from time to time. While he still has some pain from surgery, that is expected to be gone a year after surgery.

Richard is extremely thankful and has zero regrets about having this Auto Islet procedure. He calls it life-changing, and says it has improved the quality of his life drastically. As a 35-year old man with a wife and two children (ages 14 and 12), he is thankful to be leading a normal life again with his family.

The Pancreas Disease Center is part of Jewish Hospital Transplant Care. If you would like to learn more about organ donation, join us on Thursday, April 26 at the Kentucky Derby Festival Health Fair at 4th Street Live from 4 to 8 p.m. During the event, we’ll be providing information about organ donation, the Trager Transplant Center and ways you can help make a difference. 

Double Lung Transplant Patient Shares Story of Hope

Double Lung Transplant Gives Patient a Brighter Future

Double Lung Transplant Gives Patient a Brighter Future

Zack Barnum has never known life without cystic fibrosis. Diagnosed with the disease only seven days after his birth, the early prognosis was not good.

Zack Barnum“When I was born, the average life expectancy was maybe living to be a teenager,” said Zack. “As I’ve gotten older and more medical breakthroughs have happened, the average life expectancy is now in the 30s to 40s for someone with cystic fibrosis.”

Those medical breakthroughs enabled Zack to get through life. What he called “occasional tune-ups” consisted of hospital stays for something as simple as a cold.  Zack soldiered on though, knowing that someday his life could be saved by a double lung transplant.

“I joked to myself and to my family that I wanted to make it to age 40, and then things could fall apart,” said Zack. “Though it wasn’t the intent; it sort of happened just that way – I probably should’ve picked a different number.”

At age 40, the infections Zack used to fight off suddenly got more serious. His lung function decreased to 15 percent, and without a double lung transplant; he was given only six months to live.

With only two-and-a-half months of life expectancy left, Zack received his transplant. Even though several complications led to an extended hospital stay, Zack was amazed at the changes that had taken place once leaving the hospital.

“I came out of the hospital after being there for five-and-a-half weeks, and everything had bloomed,” said Zack. When I went to the hospital, trees were barren; when I came out, everything was in full bloom. That was so impactful to me – you spend this time in the hospital and the world around you changes.”

Even though there were dramatic changes in nature and in the world around him in those few weeks, Zack’s recovery would take time.

“Walking home, getting up three steps was difficult,” said Zack. “That’s even after doing physical therapy in the hospital and trying to move around. I pretty much came in the door and collapsed on the couch. For the next month, it was moving from the couch to the bed with my wife and kids trying to help take care of me.”

Slowly but surely, Zack recovered. There was no more need for oxygen. His lung function skyrocketed to 90 percent, and he was able to start enjoying things in life, like bike-riding. A future that at one point could only be measured in weeks, now seemed much brighter.

“I hope that the future holds for me that I get to see my kids graduate from high school – that would be wonderful, said Zack. “I would love to see my kids get married someday and to have that first dance with them; I think that’s what all dads think of when they have daughters.”

Five years prior to his surgery, Zack moved from Indianapolis to Louisville. He knew that when the day came for his lung transplant surgery, he wanted to be close to both his family and Jewish Hospital.

As a national leader in organ transplantation, Jewish Hospital has performed more than 5,000 transplants over more than three decades.

“I’ve been given an opportunity to be alive again,” said Zack. “I want to share that same chance with others, and help raise funds for Jewish Hospital, for organ donation and for cystic fibrosis research and treatment. It’s critical to give other people the same opportunity that I have been given.”

April is National Donate Life Month. If you would like to learn more about organ donation, join us on Thursday, April 26 at the Kentucky Derby Festival Health Fair at 4th Street Live from 4 to 8 p.m. During the event, we’ll be providing information about organ donation, the Trager Transplant Center and ways you can help make a difference. 

A Heart for Transplant

A Heart For Transplant

Kathy Anderson has a heart for organ donation. Literally.

When she was just 20 years old, Anderson received a donor’s heart. Now, 30 years later, she doesn’t miss a beat.

Anderson, of Brandenburg, had been taking medicine while she was pregnant with her twin girls that she later learned had caused her heart to deteriorate. By the time the girls were delivered, her health was serious. Her babies were just three weeks old when her physician, Dr. Laman Gray, flew to Florida to retrieve the heart of a 23-year-old donor.

Kathy Anderson and Family

Kathy Anderson, center, and family

“Transplant was so foreign back then,” Anderson said.

Organ donation took on a new meaning for their family in 2010, when Anderson’s brother died in a car accident. His liver was donated to a woman who was being treated at the University of Kentucky.

Anderson now returns to Jewish Hospital every year for a checkup, and she’s actively helped raise funds to support the hospital system through the Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Foundation.

“Jewish Hospital is the reason I’m here,” she said. “I’ve had this heart longer than the one I was born with.”