Australia’s First Islet Auto Transplant Procedure is Kicking Goals
Making medical history at just seven years of age, Gary Wanganeen was Australia’s first paediatric patient to undergo a successful islet auto transplantation procedure, completed at Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital (WCH) on July 14 2015.
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, which produces the hormone insulin, regulating blood sugar levels. Gary’s hereditary disease came from his father, who was diagnosed with pancreatitis at the age of 21.
“Gary just turned four when he started showing symptoms – rocking back and forth, having pains. He refused to eat and drink. It was heartbreaking for me,” Gary’s loving mother Chanel Brown said.
It was Chanel who made her son’s procedure a reality, dedicating her days and nights to extensive research, finding out the procedure had been successful overseas.
“I did a lot of research on little sleep. There were constant emails to America and I started looking into support groups on Facebook,” she said.
After frequent visits to the hospital in their hometown of Moonta, Gary was flown to Adelaide where he was diagnosed.
“I knew what Gary was suffering from because I watched the signs and symptoms from their dad. When we flew to Adelaide he was diagnosed with pancreatitis,” Chanel said.
“We ended up moving to Adelaide and my other son Toby was admitted to hospital the same time as Gary from stomach pain. He does have pancreatitis now and will eventually need the same operation.”
Chanel’s path crossed with Professor Toby Coates after she saw him on television and contacted him for help.
“He was in America at the time and our family was brought up in conversation as I had contacted both Prof Coates and doctors in America. I was so relieved when he told me he was willing to help.
“The day of the operation he was under anaesthetic from 5:30am. After taking his pancreas, spleen and gall bladder out; they flew his pancreas to Melbourne where the islets were isolated and brought back to be injected into his liver on the same day.”
Following the procedure, it was a long recovery process and Gary was in WCH Intensive Care Unit for two weeks.
“We are hoping that Gary’s islet cells kick in properly and produce enough insulin to run without an insulin pump. It is a huge waiting game but his surgery had made his quality of life so much better thanks to Professor Coates and his team,” Chanel said.
“He is no longer on narcotic medication and he is playing two games of football a week, which we never thought was possible before the operation.
“I encourage anyone who is in the same position as myself and my family to do their research and support these types of life-changing research projects as this would not have been possible if it wasn’t for donations made by everyday people.
“I have a big love for all these amazing doctors who fought for me and made this operation possible, especially Professor Coates. I now send him regular photo updates of Gary, and am so thankful for all his hard work that has changed Gary’s quality of life.”
Thank you for your continuous donations and support, without you this would not be possible!