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I Was Helped Through Diabetes Research
American Soldier Severely Wounded in Afghanistan Receives Historic Islet Cell Transplant. A 21-year-old airman severely injured while serving his country in a remote area of Afghanistan is recovering after several surgeries and an unprecedented islet cell transplant that saved him from living with severe diabetes. The Diabetes Research Institute played a major role in this historic effort. “I almost died – twice from loss of blood – and once from the problems with my pancreas,” said US Senior Airman Tre F. Porfirio, whose entire abdominal cavity needed to be restructured. “I have a child on the way. That is all I could think about [when I was shot.] I thought I was done.” After being struck from behind by three high velocity bullets on November 21, 2009, Porfirio was operated on twice in field hospitals and then air lifted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he came under the care of Dr. Craig D. Shriver, chief of general surgery. Porfirio’s pancreas was damaged beyond repair, but removal of the organ would instantly cause the most brittle form of diabetes.
Walter Reed doctors then contacted the Diabetes Research Institute’s scientific director, Dr. Camillo Ricordi, who immediately agreed to help. The organ was removed and shipped from Washington, D.C., to Miami, where members of the DRI team spent six hours isolating the insulin-producing islet cells from the airman’s pancreas. Dr. Ricordi, a pioneer in the diabetes field, is world renowned for developing the method to isolate islets from the pancreas. The islets were flown back, and Dr.Ricordi assisted Walter Reed surgeons via the Internet in successfully infusing the isolated cells into Porfirio’s liver on Thanksgiving Day.
It makes me feel good that while we are fighting to find a cure for a disease that affects 240 million worldwide, we can actually help one person at a time when the occasion presents itself,” said Dr. Ricordi. “There’s no other patient in the world who has had their entire pancreas removed for trauma, survived, and had the pancreas islet cells put back in the liver and have them function 100 percent perfectly. Tre is not on any insulin. His sugars are normal. He really is a one-of-a-kind case,” stated Dr. Shriver. Thanks to your ongoing support and others who are committed to help find a cure for diabetes, this soldier was spared from living a life of diabetes. Your continued efforts will ensure a cure for all people living with this relentless disease. “Tre is a hero,” Dr. Ricordi said. “He risked his life in the war against terrorism, and it's a miracle he is alive.