November 13, 2018  Print

Ruth Cummock lived for years with the fear that she might pass out because of complications she suffered from type 1 diabetes.

Ruth Cummock playing with her grandson

Ruth’s blood sugar level would sometimes fall without her realising – a situation that could potentially trigger seizures, loss of consciousness, brain damage or even death.

Today, Ruth no longer fears the worst effects of her diabetes – all thanks to a pioneering clinical trial out of Westmead.

Ruth was part of Australia’s first successful trial of pancreatic islets transplants, a procedure that gives life-saving hope to high-risk diabetes sufferers by transplanting healthy pancreas cells into the recipient’s liver.

Ruth was a perfect candidate for the trial.

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 20, she spent most of her adult life undergoing twice-daily insulin injections. Although she managed to work and have a family life, her illness had worsened and she lost much of her eyesight.

She underwent a single islet transplant followed by a double islet transplant – in which islet cells were isolated from two donor organs and transplanted in the one procedure.

The result of the operations was remarkable. Ruth has been insulin free for 10 years now – an amazing result.

Although she must still watch her diet and monitor sugar intake, she now leads an active healthy life.

“I wasn’t worried about the possible risks involved in the trial, I was just happy to have a chance to lead a normal life,” Ruth said.

“Without the transplants I probably would be totally blind today and, if I’d had a really bad episode of hypoglycaemia unawareness, I might not be alive.”