Nancy Jensch RN CDE, Ministry Diabetes Services, educates and assists diabetes patients every day. It is her responsibility to help patients with proper medical care, clinical therapies, diet, hygiene, and exercise, so a diabetes patient’s symptoms and complications can be successfully treated and managed.
Patient Lisa Bishop, age 29, came to Nancy with some signs and symptoms that were not so common.
Bishop had Type 1 Diabetes and had a particularly difficult time managing her disease due to frequent wide swings in blood sugar, causing periods of unconsciousness and seizures.
“I would have seizures several times a week. It was hard to function and do the daily activities that everyone does on a regular basis,” said Bishop.
Despite working closely with her medical team, checking her blood sugar every 30-45 minutes throughout the day, and following all treatment recommendations, Lisa was unable to control her blood sugar. She was having an increasingly difficult time with her living arrangements, relationships, driving, and work.
Nancy Jensch, her diabetes educator at Howard Young Medical Center, knew something wasn’t right.
“Lisa was displaying extremely erratic blood sugar levels despite vigilance with blood glucose checks, insulin dosing, and counting her carbohydrates.” said Jensch.
Jensch referred her to a research program through the Schulze Diabetes Institute at the University of Minnesota, where they perform islet cell transplants. This procedure involves extracting the insulin producing cells from the pancreas of a deceased organ donor. After processing these cells, they are infused into the recipient’s liver where they begin to produce insulin in response to sugar found in the blood as it flows through the liver. If successful, the transplant controls blood sugar levels without the need for the recipient to take insulin. A successful transplant also keeps blood sugar in a normal or near normal range, and therefore prevents dangerous low blood sugars.
The Schulze Diabetes Institute covered all of her medical expenses, but Bishop was unable to afford the expense of living in a motel for 30 days during the transplant process, and being unable to work for several months.
“This was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I could not let it pass by for Lisa,” said Jensch.
On her own time, Jensch contacted Lions and Lioness clubs in the Northwoods community, along with a few individuals, that responded with generous donations to cover these expenses.
Lisa received her transplant in January 2010 and is now considered to be cured of her Type 1 Diabetes.
According to the Schulze Diabetes Institute, four islet transplant trials involving 32 patients with Type 1 Diabetes have been completed since 2000. All participating subjects had suffered from hypoglycemia unawareness that had persisted despite intensive efforts made by the patient in close coordination with their diabetes care team. Since, none of the patients has experienced a serious, unexpected adverse event related to the islet transplant procedure or the immunosuppressive protocol.
“This transplant has saved my life,” said Bishop. “If it wasn’t for the encouragement and help of Nancy, I might not be where I am today. I am thankful to her, along with the support of the Lions and Lioness clubs, and individuals, who made this possible for me.”
Bishop now lives in Eagle River, has returned to work on a limited basis, and is engaged to be married. She maintains a normalcy to her life that was previously unobtainable.
“Nancy not only provided direct patient care while the patient was at Ministry, but she continued to help her after she was in care outside of Ministry,” said Sheila Clough, President, Ministry Howard Young Health Care. “There are staff that go that extra mile and truly put patients first, and Nancy is one of those staff.”