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May 2010 Issue

Amit Govil, MD, professor and chief of the Transplant Section in the Division of Nephrology Kidney CARE Program
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Region's Only Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Program Provides Life-Saving Service for UC Health Patients

By Katie Pence
Published May 2010

Ice cream never tasted so good to Danyelle Brown, 38.

"I’m not much of a sweets person, but if you hand me a bowl of ice cream … it’s gone,” she laughs.

The pleasure in eating this favorite treat is two-fold for Brown because she was never able to eat what she wanted until eight months ago.

In fact, she wasn’t able to do much of anything because of the fatigue and pain she felt almost constantly.

Brown has had type 1 diabetes for 18 years, and in September 2009, after experiencing both congestive heart failure and kidney failure within a year and a half of each other, she received a kidney/pancreas transplant at UC Health University Hospital.

Amit Tevar, MD, UC Health transplant surgeon and surgical director of the pancreas transplant program, performed the surgery.

"It changed my life,” says Brown, a pediatric nurse, adding that she’s battled rejection and some other complications since, but overall, it’s been a great change.

"It had been so long since I felt ‘good’ that I didn’t know what ‘good’ was anymore. I’m now able to be a wife to my husband and a mother to my two sons. I’d go through it all again in a heartbeat, and I wouldn’t go any place other than University Hospital to do it.”

Brown’s nephrologist referred her to University Hospital—the only hospital in the region that offers pancreas transplants—because of its reputation.

Brown has been driving all the way to Cincinnati from her Georgetown, Ky., home for follow-up care every week since her transplant.

"And I don’t mind it a bit,” she adds.

"The nurses and physicians are wonderful. I told Dr. (Amit) Govil that they needed to adopt me.”

Amit Govil, MD, recently named medical director of the UC Health pancreas transplant program and assistant professor in the division of nephrology and hypertension at UC, says he is hoping to expand the local program further.

"We really have an asset,” says Govil.

"The pancreas transplant program is growing, and we hope to attract more funds for research to examine ways to prevent and treat rejection.”

The pancreas is a small organ located behind the stomach that produces hormones, including insulin, which controls the amount of sugar in the blood.

These juices are enzymes that help digest food in the small intestine.

Govil says individuals like Brown, with type 1 diabetes and kidney failure, benefit the most from kidney/pancreas transplants.
"There is a need for public awareness, especially to type 1 diabetics, regarding the benefits of pancreas transplant,” he says. "Most type 1 diabetics have never lived a normal life and have resigned themselves to the uncertainties of glycemic control and its complications.”

Govil, along with the UC Health transplant team, hopes to expand and strengthen the program with broader outreach efforts.

"Between the expertise that both UC Health transplant surgeons and nephrologists bring, the ongoing research and the renal transplant fellowship offered at the UC College of Medicine, this program has the potential to make great strides in the field of pancreas transplantation globally,” he says.

"We hope to create some very successful, promising medical treatments—and train physicians—that save and improve the lives of patients everywhere.”

Brown says the hope is alive and has been passed on to her.

"This transplant hasn’t been all about me,” she says.

"I try to help others understand type 1 diabetes and cope with its effects as well as the promise transplantation brings. And in the meantime, I enjoy life to the fullest.”

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