• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Freed from the grip of diabetes with pancreas transplant

April 7, 2019

pancreas transplant patient Mary Shelley with a racing helmet on at the car trackMary Shelley struggled for years to control her erratic blood sugar levels, which affected every aspect of her life. A pancreas transplant in 2018 helped her overcome many of the symptoms and side effects of diabetes, and it has allowed her to experience life in ways she never thought possible.

When Mary Shelley was 1½ years old, Mayo Clinic helped save her life. She was in a coma in a Miami hospital, and her doctors reached out to a pediatric endocrinologist at Mayo Clinic for help.

"Whatever information they provided allowed me to be here today," says the medical coder, who ended up getting a job at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus in 1996.

Mary was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. The hormone is needed to deliver sugar — also called glucose — to the body's cells, so they can produce energy. To control her diabetes, Mary used an insulin pump for 36 years, and she diligently worked to manage her blood sugar through her diet.

"The pump was a wonderful asset to my life. But after decades of having it attached to my arms, legs and abdomen, I ended up with lots of scar tissue under my skin," Mary says. "There were only so many places on my body left to attach it and absorb the insulin."

As the years went on, Mary's blood sugar levels became harder to control, and it was taking a significant toll on her health and her life. In 2017, Mary's Mayo Clinic care team suggested she consider another option: a pancreas transplant. That was the solution Mary needed. Since the transplant in 2018, Mary has enjoyed activities and adventures she never dreamed of participating in before. Read the rest of Mary's story.
This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.