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Once-Diabetic Heart/Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Recipient Enjoys Life (And Eating Again)

At holiday dinners this year, Calabasas, Calif., resident Jim Stavis, 52, was able to eat the same pumpkin pie and special desserts everyone else had//, not the sugar-free variety. And when dinner was over, he didn’t have to reach for his insulin pump to try to compensate. A pancreas transplant performed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in late October cured him of diabetes, which had controlled his life for 35 years.

Oh, and a heart and kidney transplant performed at the same place and same time the year before saved his life. Only about eight patients in the United States have received simultaneous transplants of a heart, kidney and pancreas since 1992, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), and the first European patient to receive this combination of organs simultaneously was reported to be in good health 11 years after the procedure. If a combination like Jim’s – heart and kidney, followed later by a pancreas transplant – has been performed, it does not appear to be documented in medical literature. In any case, Jim is among elite company worldwide.

Jim was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 17. “I was told, back in the early ’70s, that having diabetes meant a life of potential amputations, blindness, kidney disease and other problems.

He decided to adopt a positive outlook, managing his health as best he could, and accepting life and its challenges as they came. He remained relatively healthy for about 20 years but began to encounter diabetes-related complications – such as a blocked coronary artery – in the late 1990s. Under the care of cardiologist P.K. Shah, M.D., director of Cedars-Sinai’s Division of Cardiology and the Atherosclerosis Research Center, Jim was able to manage his heart problems conservatively until more serious problems emerged.

“In the winter of 2004, we went to visit my daughter at her college in Madison, Wisconsin for Parents’ Weekend and my kidneys shut down and I we
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