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Australia’s First Islet Auto Transplant is Kicking Goals

Making medical history at just seven years of age, Gary Wanganeen was Australia’s first paediatric patient to undergo a successful islet auto transplantation procedure on July 14 2015.

Professor Toby Coates

"Australia’s First Islet Auto Transplant is Kicking Goals"

Making medical history at just seven years of age, Gary Wanganeen was Australia’s first paediatric patient to undergo a successful islet auto transplantation procedure on July 14 2015.

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, which produces the hormone insulin, regulating blood sugar levels. Gary’s hereditary disease came from his father, who was diagnosed with pancreatitis at the age of 21.

“Gary just turned four when he started showing symptoms – rocking back and forth, having pains. He refused to eat and drink. It was heartbreaking for me,” Gary’s loving mother Chanel Brown said.

It was Chanel who made her son’s procedure a reality, dedicating her days and nights to extensive research, finding out the procedure had been successful overseas. After frequent visits to the hospital in their hometown of Moonta, Gary was flown to Adelaide where he was diagnosed.

Chanel’s path crossed with Professor Toby Coates after she saw him on television and contacted him for help.

“He was in America at the time and our family was brought up in conversation as I had contacted both Prof Coates and doctors in America. I was so relieved when he told me he was willing to help.

“The day of the operation Gary was under anesthetic from 5:30am. After taking his pancreas, spleen and gall bladder out; they flew his pancreas to Melbourne where the islets were isolated and brought back to be injected into his liver on the same day.”

Following the procedure, it was a long recovery process and Gary was in Womens and Children’s Hospital Intensive Care Unit for two weeks. Now over a year later, Gary is back on the football field and enjoying a much better quality of life.

“We are hoping that Gary’s islet cells kick in properly and produces enough insulin to run without an insulin pump. It is a huge waiting game but his surgery has made his quality of life so much better thanks to Professor Coates and his team,” Chanel said.

“He is no longer on narcotic medication and he is playing two games of football a week, which we never thought was possible before the operation.”

This procedure was only possible thanks to advances in medical research!

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