Healthy Living

Experimental Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Cures Man's Diabetes

Experimental Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Cures Man's Diabetes

Matt Polk was just one of many patients on the kidney transplant list, hoping that one day he would find a suitable donor. However, he could never imagine the consequences his transplant would have in store for him in 2016.

Matt was one of three patients who enlisted for a kidney/pancreas transplant at the OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria in 2017. Now, with a new kidney and pancreas, Matt hasn't required a single injection of insulin to this day. “To see him post-surgery not having that insulin pump, to know his body was working perfectly, it was truly a miracle,” Matt's wife, Barbara Pulk, said while accompanying her husband in the family’s Morton home.

Matt was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was just a child. Since he was 3 years old, his family would try their best to keep his blood sugar under control. At first, his family would assist him. However, as soon as he was old enough, he would administer his own injections and control his blood sugar levels throughout his routine.  However, though the 49-year-old had did his best, it simply wasn’t enough. He needed a kidney/pancreas transplant in order to continue living.

Matt was one of the lucky few. His doctor was always monitoring his kidney health, even before he was referred to a nephrologist back in 2015. One year later, his kidney function declined to the point where his doctor put him on the transplant list. He only had to wait a year before undergoing the procedure that would not only save his life, but also massively improve his quality of life.

“I went on the list just for a kidney,” said Matt. “Part of the protocol is, they tell you to ask people you know if they are willing to donate a kidney.”

They already knew that Matt’s sister was a match, and she volunteered to donate her kidney if it came to it. However, at the doctor’s insistence, they stayed put. Matt’s doctor claimed that the patient’s name was appearing on the donor list and that there was a very good chance that they could secure a kidney, as well as a pancreas for Matt. But, this decision was tough to make for Matt and his wife.

Photo source: Matt Polk and his family by Molly Dolores Photography/Journal Star