She was diagnosed with type one diabetes at the age of 12 and is now nearly 23. She is married to a US Army National Guard soldier. Their dream is to one day have children when Karyn is healthy enough to do so. She has been in and out of hospitals for the past 11 years and has had many life threatening complications. Every day she faces the fear of one day developing severe, permanent complications such as infection, nerve damage, blindness, stroke, amputation and many other very likely complications with someone with unstable diabetes. She also hopes this experience not only gives her back her health, but gives her an opportunity to educate others about this possible cure.
Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas no longer makes insulin, which is the hormone that carries sugar into the cells, where it is used at fuel. Without insulin, the body begins to break down muscle and fat for its fuel and causes to blood to become toxic, eventually resulting in death.
The islet cell transplant is performed by removing islet cells (insulin producing cells) from a donor pancreas and placing them in the diabetic's liver. The pancreas is a very delicate and easily irritated organ, so it is safer to let the islets make the liver their home. Karyn will likely need two transplants, or even three, to receive an adequate amount of islets to make her insulin injection free. Islets die very quickly once the pancreas is removed from the donor.
This journey has already and will become very expensive for Karyn and her husband. The two will make numerous trips from their home in Georgia to Chicago. They will stay in Chicago for a full month following each transplant performed. Travel expenses weigh on them alone. Karyn visits numerous doctors on a regular basis. Copays and the need to reach and maintain a healthy lifestyle to prepare her for the transplant adds to the financial burden. Immunosuppression drugs will be covered for only a year after the transplant, she will need this medication for the rest of her life.
Karyn dreams of the day she is insulin free and can see her future to be much healthier and promising. She is excited to be a part of something that could possibly help so many others.
"Eleven years of pain will have been worth it, if I can provide one person dealing with this disease a little hope and comfort. I hope this experience will let all diabetics know that there may soon be a light at the end of the tunnel."-Karyn