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My Transplant Story

On January 1, 2016, I had a pancreatic islet transplant as part of a Clinical Trial at the City of Hope in Duarte, California.  I have been an insulin dependent Type-1 diabetic for over 35 years.  I am now insulin free and living my life without diabetes.

You can see a one page summary if you don’t want to look at all the details below or you can see my blog chronologically showing each major event.

City of Hope - Duarte, CA

Islet Cell Transplantation Program

What Is This Clinical Trial?

City of Hope is well known world-wide for cancer treatment, but also leads the nation with state of the art diabetes treatment.  They have been conducting Islet Transplant Clinical Trials for over 10 years, and are currently in a new phase called:

Islet Transplantation Using a T-Cell Depleting Immunosuppression Induction Regimen

Why Is This Clinical Trial Important?

In 2012, approximately 1.25 million American children and adults had Type-1 Diabetes. In the 1950’s, about 1 in 5 people (20%) died within 20 years of diagnosis, and one in three (33%) died within 25 years of diagnosis.  By 1980 these statistics had improved to 3.5% within 20 years and 7% within 25 years.  Long term complications, which affect a significant percentage of people with diabetes over 20 years, include kidney damage, nerve damage, heart and blood vessel disease, eye damage, foot damage, and also, in extreme cases, limb amputation.

A Potential Long-Term Cure – But With Issues Today

Islet transplantation is a potential long cure for Type-1 diabetes, but it is still considered an experimental procedure and is not an approved treatment. Some primary reasons are:

  • the length of time the transplant works – often, sometimes within 1-2 years, transplanted islets cells are destroyed by the body’s immune system.  City of Hope Clinical Trial is directly addressing this issue.
  • the potential risks associated with the procedure and anti-rejection drugs – which includes an increased risk of cancer and other diseases.  These risks must be weighed against the associated risks of long-term diabetes, including hypoglycemia unawareness.

This Clinical Trial Phase at the City of Hope

This latest Islet Transplant Clinical Trial phase adds new immunosuppression drugs and treatments that attempt to extend the effectiveness of the islet transplant, potentially to many years, perhaps as long as 10-20.   City of Hope’s ultimate objective is nothing less than eliminating Type-1 Diabetes in our lifetime.  This trial is a key phase in their research to help them achieve that objective.

What Is My Story?

Since I’ve been in this Clinical Trial, I have been asked by many people about how it has worked for me, how I am progressing, and how it has affected my life.  This blog contains the story, very much still in progress.

My transplant has, in a very short time, already changed my life.  I believed that the risks associated with recurring hypoglycemia unawareness certainly outweighed the risks of the transplant, but this is very much my personal perspective.   I know I had begun to feel it was almost a certainty that a severe hypoglycemic episode was going to end my life or leave me severely disabled, probably sooner rather than later.  Because of my transplant, I am now beginning to live my life again without that fear.

It is certainly my hope that if you have Type-1 diabetes, or have someone in your family, or a friend, who has diabetes, my story may be of interest to you.  It may also help you better understand some of the quite remarkable Clinical Trials that institutions like the City of Hope are conducting with Type-1 Diabetes.  If you are diabetic, it may provide an incentive for you to be part of this or another trial, and give you better insight into what this Clinical Trial is all about.

Is An Islet Transplant Right For You?

Participation in a Clinical Trial isn’t for everyone.  In my case, however, it has been an extraordinary opportunity to receive personal relief for a serious diabetes related issue, and at the same time allow me to participate in something that may, in the reasonably near future, offer significant benefit to anyone dealing with Type-1 Diabetes.  It was an opportunity I very much wanted to be part of.

If you are thinking about it for yourself, or for someone you care about, here is a good overview:

Link: Is Islet Tranplantion an Option for You?

Each Clinical Trial is different, and has slightly different requirements.  See details and application information for the City of Hope Clinical Trial here:


Transplant Details

Transplant Timeline

Most Recent back to 2015

City of Hope - Duarte, CA
City of Hope - Duarte, CA - Roger Sparks
City of Hope - Duarte, CA - Roger Sparks
September 2017 Blood Sugar Numbers - Roger Sparks
Roger Sparks - Six Months - Islet Transplant
September 2016 Blood Sugar Numbers - Roger Sparks
September 2016 Blood Sugar Numbers - Islet Transplant
Pancreatic Islet Transplant - Day 14 - Roger Sparks
City of Hope - Duarte, CA - Roger Sparks
City of Hope - Duarte, CA - Roger Sparks
Pancreatic Islet Transplant - Day 14 - Roger Sparks
Islet Transplant - Day 75 - Roger Sparks
Pancreatic Islet Transplant Blog - Blood - Roger Sparks
Pancreatic Islet Transplant - Injection - Roger Sparks
City of Hope - Duarte, CA - Roger Sparks
Diabetic Hypoglycemia
How an Insulin Pump Works

Roger D. Sparks

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