Pancreas transplant a 'Game Changer' for Maryland woman
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Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at just a year old, LaTrece Lytes learned early on how to manage her disease. The Prince George's County resident worked hard to keep her blood sugar under control while pregnant with her son. She even made it through surgeries on her uterus to remove fibroid tumors and wrists to alleviate carpal tunnel syndrome without having any diabetes-related issues.
But in 2019, she began having extreme pains and bumps all over her body. Doctors diagnosed her with sarcoidosis, a disease that causes small patches of red and swollen tissue; high blood pressure; diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage caused by diabetes; and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
"I got to the point where I was walking with a walker," LaTrece said. "My body was decaying. It was almost like I was an elderly person, but I was still young… I felt as though maybe my body was giving up."
Soon after her diagnoses, LaTrece's blood sugar dropped dramatically, and she passed out at home. With all these warning signs, LaTrece said she knew something had to change.
"During my follow up appointment with my endocrinologist, he introduced the idea of a pancreas transplant," she said. "He said, 'LaTrece, this could be a game changer for you.'"
After discussing the idea with her husband, LaTrece met with transplant surgeon Dr. Joseph Scalea.
"I felt good about it after talking to Dr. Scalea, and my husband felt good about it, too," LaTrece recalled. "We were ready to do this. I was very excited about getting a new way of life."
Hospital staff placed LaTrece's name on the pancreas transplant list on August 14, 2020. A month later, she received the life-changing phone call.
"My pre-op nurse said, 'We have an organ for you,'" LaTrece said. "We left the house and made it to the hospital in 30 minutes."
After successfully transplanting the pancreas, Dr. Scalea updated LaTrece's family.
"He came out and told my husband that as of 4:30 p.m. today, your wife is no longer a Type 1 diabetic," LaTrece said.
The disease that LaTrece lived with for 42 years was no longer ruling her life. Since the transplant, her sarcoidosis, high blood pressure and IBS also disappeared.
"I feel really good," she said. "I'm doing all that I can on my part to take care of this organ."
Looking back, LaTrece said she is grateful for all the care and support she received at the medical center.
"Dr. Scalea made everything really, really easy," she said. "And the staff themselves, they just make you feel really comfortable."
As for others contemplating a pancreas transplant, LaTrece said to "trust the process."
"Trust is the biggest word," she said. "You have to trust yourself, trust your partner and trust who you are working with."