Rachel Harris was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 13 while training as a gymnast and dancer. With a life filled with multiple insulin injections, strict dietary restrictions, regular glucose monitoring, and a regular exercise program, she remained free of complications. Despite her vigilant efforts to regulate her glucose levels, diabetes finally caught up with her in 1996 when, at just 27 years of age, she developed diabetic retinopathy and required 14+ sessions of laser treatment to save her vision. Not long after this, Rachel learned of the Diabetes Research Institute in Miami and applied to their islet cell transplant program. She was not accepted initially but in 1999 was placed on the waiting list for a donor. Rachel received her first transplant in June of 2001 and a second 5 weeks later at which time her insulin pump was disconnected! In August of 2003, The Miami Herald reported that she was the nation's longest 'insulin-free diabetic.'
To date, Rachel's pump still lies silently in a drawer! She currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia where she is pursuing her doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology. This summer will mark her 5th year anniversary of her transplants. She recently stated, "This has been the best thing that has every happened to me. I'm so grateful to the DRI, my donors and their families. This journey has been filled with so many blessings, and I realize everyday just how fortunate I am. Even with some of the side effects of the drugs, I'd have to say that my worst days are better than my best days as a diabetic!"
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