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This fundraiser ended on 08/16/12

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Family and friends of Angelina Weist uniting to raise money to assist with expenses before, during, and after her 2nd pancreas transplant!

During the summer of 2010, Angelina received two amazing gifts: a kidney from her older brother, which stopped the kidney failure she'd been going through for almost two years; and a pancreas, which cured the diabetes which had been causing her so much medical trouble since age 9 1/2. After her double transplant, she had two years of feeling better than she could remember (with a few ups and downs). In June of this year, Angelina found out that her body had rejected her transplanted pancreas. So, she's back on insulin and starting the process of getting on the list for a new pancreas. After the initial surgery, she will need to return to Indianapolis twice a week for two months. It's a three-hour drive from her home in South Bend, IN, to Indianapolis. Angelina's family will need funds for gas, lodging, and meals. By sending a donation, you can help her travel to and from Indianapolis for the check-ups and bloodwork necessary for a successful transplant. If you would like to learn more about what she has gone through over the past 20 years, please keep reading. Thank you for your generosity!

 

Diagnosed with Type One Diabetes at Age 9 1/2

In May of 1992, I became very ill. I couldn't keep food down. I lost close to 15 pounds in a matter of days. I looked like death was knocking on my door, and I was almost 10! Before that time, I was mostly a healthy, athletic, fun child. Then my mom took me to my doctor. He weighed me and looked in my throat. He never took a temperature or urine sample or did any blood tests. He said I had the flu and sent me home. That same night, my dad came home while I was resting on the couch. I looked like a skeleton. My dad took me to the local ER where they drew blood and took a urine sample. They started me on an IV fluid regimen of sugar water. I soon found that this was making me worse. The doctor frantically ordered the nurses to stop the IV and informed everyone that my blood sugar level was greater than 900. I was officially a type one brittle juvenile diabetic.

I vaguely remember slipping in and out of consciousness. The next morning, I awoke with doctors and nurses alongside my parents. They looked so worried and scared; all of these adults were looking at me with such sadness. I asked what was going on. They explained in great detail what had been happening and what would be happening. I was given videos and pamphlets. The nurse told me that I would have to take an insulin shot every time I had to eat and check my blood sugar levels with a small machine every day before meals and activities. The nurse asked if I would like to learn how to take those shots on a doll or an orange. I asked if I could just go ahead and give myself my first shot. I wasn't scared! So that's what I have been doing ever since that day.

Over the past 18 years, I have developed lots of issues. The list seems to grow from year to year: depression disorder, nerve damage (stomach, legs, face and sex organs), retinaopathy in both eyes. I should have had frequent flier miles added to my medical bills. I have had many other smaller issues in those years as well.

 

A Happy Mom at Age 22

I have an amazing eight-year-old son. He was born healthy but the pregnancy wasn't without major complications. My heart stopped a number of times within those nine months. At seven months, I was admitted to the hospital for a pin-sized puncture in my right cheek. It was such a tiny hole and it wouldn't stop bleeding; it took them forever to deal with it. At eight months, I was admitted for flu-like symptoms only to find out I had a blood infection. I was put on oxygen. There were machines and nurses and doctors everywhere. My boyfriend (now husband), mother, and two friends stood by helplessly while this went on for an hour or so. I kept entertaining everyone even though I had an oxygen mask on and everyone who looked at me had a frantic look in their eyes. When even the doctor looked scared, I hid my emotions. He concluded I had a virus running through my blood; he was worried for me and my unborn child. Things finally went back to normal for a bit. My son Wiley was born healthy and I was too happy about that to worry about anything else.

 

Kidney Problems and Stroke at Age 26

Five years ago, I went to see a new doctor. She ran regular new patient labs. From there, I was sent to a kidney specialist who told me I had only 24% of my kidney function left. I didn't know how to deal with that news. It was a blow to me. My previous doctors hadn't said anything about my kidneys. I was put on strict diets to regulate my sodium, potassium, protein, liquids and calories. Just weeks after that news, I had a mild stroke. At 26 years old! I lost most of my speech for almost a week. I could think things I wanted to say and write them down, but for almost a week I couldn't speak those thoughts.

 

Cardiac Arrest and Dialysis at Age 27

In January of 2009, my ankles, stomach, chest and face began to swell. I am talking Nutty Professor style! I was having a lot of trouble breathing and feeling stuffed after one bite of food. When I would lie down, I would hear a gurgling sound from my chest. I went to the local ER where I was told that my kidney function had dropped to 20%. 15% kidney function is when you must be put on dialysis, get a transplant, or give up your life and get put six feet under. I wanted nothing to do with any of those choices, but when you are given lemons you have no choice but to make lemonade! I contacted my kidney specialist but he was on vacation; the nurse and on-call doctor didn't seem too worried at that point. They upped my water pill to help me get rid of the extra fluid.

Well, sometimes when it rains, it pours. This was one of those times. Get your rain gear, kids! The medication didn't help and a few days later I was really struggling to breath normally. I went to the local ER again to find out I had dropped in kidney function to 14%. I was officially below the 15% "Oh, sh*t!" marker. My chest X-ray indicated fluid overload. I went into surgery the next day so the could put a tube in my neck and clean out my blood (since my kidneys had taken an unauthorized leave of absence). I couldn't eat or drink very much because of the surgery. By the time I was in surgery, it was almost 6 pm. I hadn't eaten since the day before at 4 pm, and I am a diabetic. I went straight to hemo-dialysis after surgery. I was so sick and felt completely out of it; my head hurt and my stomach ached. That night I attempted to eat a little since I had been given pain medication. I entertained my family and friends. I didn't want them to see me suffering, so I played it all down. Too bad it didn't work out that way. I threw up the little bit I had eaten and, in the process, I ripped open the stitches in my neck. Yeah, it was pretty much as awesome as it sounds.

After this, I was given more pain medication. Too bad my kidneys hadn't had enough dialysis to filter out the narcotics. Here's a math equation for you: Take a 120 pound diabetic girl and don't feed her for over 24 hours. Give her pain medication and then more medication, and what do you get? Yeah. Cardiac arrest! My heart stopped in the middle of the night. The nurse came to check on me and noticed I was non-responsive and my lips were blue. I woke up in a new room with a bunch of monitors hooked to me that were not there before. I was monitored very closely after that. After that experience, I didn't even take aspirin for pain; I just dealt with it. Five days later I went into surgery to have a tube inserted in to my stomach for dialysis. I had to hook up to a Home Choice Pro Dialysis machine every night.

 

Kidney then Pancreas Transplant at Age 28

Starting in the summer of 2009, I took test after test to see if I was healthy enough to undergo transplant surgery. I officially passed, and I was put on the National Kidney and Pancreas List. My brother Shawn offered to see if he was a match in terms of blood and tissue. He took all of the necessary tests, and it just so happened he was a great match. My older sister Dawn was very willing to do the same for me but there were concerns about babies in the future; I understand her choices. I would not ask anyone for any organ. I am so thankful to both my siblings for the love and support they have given me.

On June 25, my brother donated a kidney to me, and I was in the hospital for 7-10 days. After the initial surgery, I needed to return to Indianapolis twice a week for two months, plus extra trips for unexpected complications. Just a month after the surgery, I received the call that there was a pancreas available for me! So back to Indy we went, and back into surgery I went. You should see my fantastic scars. But they were totally worth it.

 

Feeling Good (Mostly) at Age 29

My transplants changed my life completely. After years of diabetes-related complications and insulin, I didn’t have diabetes any more. (Yes, I enjoyed a lot of desserts.) After almost two years on dialysis, my new kidney functioned normally and I felt so much healthier. Every day still brought ups and downs, but most of the time I felt better than I had in years. I got to spend lots of quality time with my son and husband and parents. My brother and sister flew out from Oregon to celebrate my thirtieth birthday with me, and life felt pretty amazing.

But not perfect. In December of 2010, I had a flair-up of CMV (a virus that goes unnoticed in healthy people, but can cause severe problems for people with compromised immune systems, like me—I take handfuls of immuno-suppressants every day to keep my body from rejecting my transplanted kidney and pancreas). My CMV earned me an all-expenses-paid-by-insurance vacation at the lovely Indiana University Hospital in Indianapolis for 10 days. This trip included a complimentary double tube in the neck for treatment of the CMV. I wouldn’t recommend it.

 

Rejection of Transplanted Pancreas at Age 30

In June and July of 2011, my pancreas went into Stage 3 Rejection. I spent most of July down in the hospital in Indianapolis. My lipase and amylase levels were sky high; I had a blockage in my duodenum. It was incredibly painful, plus I had to take shots and extra pills to combat the rejection. Because I had to take such high levels of my anti-rejection meds, I started to get really fun side effects, like ulcers in my mouth. I was hospitalized twice for the severe ulcers. This lasted until early November, when things started to get better again.

I was feeling good enough in March 2012 to fly out to Oregon to visit my brother and sister. Look at me flying across the country—no insulin, no dialysis, no problem! Well, one problem, courtesy of my years with diabetes. During my weeks in Oregon, my left eye acted up. I had strange floating blind spots that were really disorienting, so I wore an eye patch. I totally rocked the pirate look until I could get back home to see my doctor. Blood vessels had burst, and I had blood floating like a cloud in the middle of my retina. After laser surgery, the eye doc said the damage was bad. I needed a victerctomy and silicone oil injection (filling of the eye with liquid silicone to hold the retina in place). I also needed photocoagulation (laser treatment to seal off holes in the retina or to shrink unhealthy, damaging blood vessels which grow in some diseases such as diabetes). I was scheduled right away since my retina was starting to detatch.

I had to reschedule my eye surgery twice because I caught walking pneumonia. Thank you, compromised immune system. It seemed like I couldn’t catch a break. After the retina surgery, I found out I had very large ovarian cysts that were extremely painful. Then some good news: the cysts were non-cancerous and shrank on their own. No surgery needed! At least, not for the cysts.

During the first week of June 2012, I thought I had a really bad case of the flu. I felt weak and kept throwing up (not recommended right after eye surgery). The day after my son’s eight birthday, my husband took me to the local ER where my blood sugar was 891. Normal blood sugar levels are between 75 and 140. I took an ambulance ride back to the hospital in Indy. They ran tests and found out my transplanted pancreas was dead in the water. After almost two years of being diabetes-free, I had to take insulin and monitor my sugar levels again. I was told that it would be even harder to keep my sugar levels steady than it was before my transplant (and it was almost impossible to keep them steady then). Great!

Mid-June, during a routine check-up down in Indy, my docs found pretty substantial internal bleeding. I went straight into surgery to find the bleeding. I had an aneurism in my greater pancreatic artery. The docs had to go in through my iliac artery to stop the bleeding; they placed a large stent to keep things in order. I’m back at home now, starting the testing process to get back on the transplant list for a new pancreas. It’s a long road to go down again—testing, waiting, surgery, recovery—but there’s nothing to it but to do it. Thank you to all who have helped in supporting me and my family!

 

Bless you,

Angelina

 

If you have any questions you would like to ask Angelina about her history with diabetes and her journey through the transplants she has had up to this point, please e-mail her at giveforwardtoangel@gmail.com

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