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KEN TENBUSCH - Islet Cell Recipient

Hi, I'm Ken Tenbusch-

    I had gotten diabetes when I was 23 years old and was cured of it appx 15 years later. I am married to a super person (my best friend), Andrea, and we have 3 children: Daniel (8 years old), Steven (6) and Catherine (4).


I consider all the experiences associated with my diabetes and eventual cure an incredible blessing.  Its a funny thing to be blessed with such a "pain in the neck" disease for such a huge chunk of my life.  When I was told I had diabetes, I felt powerless and inclomplete.  I was forced to give up any career I thought I may have had in Air Force.  I had to start over and figure out how to deal with this disease. I had to figure out how to eat, how to take shots of insulin. I had to figure out how to play tennis or work without going into hypoglycemia. But, just as one door was shut, a window was opened. Being separated from the Air Force gave me an opportunity to interview with NASA, to be part of the space program-  which was my lifelong dream. Six months after I had found out I had diabetes, I found myself working at Kennedy Space Center.


And I think of all the friendships that I have gained because of my diabetes (such as the other 4 recipients that make up the Miami 5 and the many great folks at the DRI) ; I wouldn't replace that for anything.  And last and surely not least,  if not for Diabetes, the events that took place that allowed me to meet the one I would spend the rest of my life with, Andrea.  Frankly, I cannot imagine my life if I had never gotten diabetes. It's probably the best thing that has ever happened to me.  I had told Andrea when I met her, "you know,  unlike what you might have read, I won't have diabetes forever, 10 years from now, there'll be a cure."

And now, here I am, maybe one in 300 or so  people in the world who can say they, "had" diabetes.


Close to 2 years ago, I underwent 2 successive islet cell transplants that you have read about on this website.  I’ve been free of insulin injections ever since with close control (for the diabetics out there, A1Cs that have hovered around 5.1 to 5.8).  The anti rejection medication, however, prevents this from being a perfect cure. There are some uncomfortable side effects which I have to deal with (everyone seems to face a slightly different set of challenges). I believe mine are less than most: occasional mouth sores, some minor rashes that come and go, elevated lipid levels which I take medicine for, and occasional heartburn.  Compared to the diabetes, however, I consider all of these a piece of cake.


Whatever the case, with all the good and bad that has occurred, this all has sure opened my eyes.  Because, while I was suffering through diabetes, there were people who were trying to make a difference and I was totally unaware of it: millions of people supporting fund raisers, dedicated scientists looking and searching for a cure, organ doners, so many care givers.  I am so thankful.  Let me tell you, its an unbelievable blessing to be on the receiving end of such a gift. I've said this before and I'll say it again,  I may have gotten, maybe 1-1.5 million cells in my liver to cure my diabetes--but it can hardly compare to the billions of cells that I received and that were transplanted into my heart when I finally opened my eyes to the kindness that is in so many people's hearts.


 I am taking anit-rejection medication, and there's a chance that these islet cells will break-down or get rejected by the immune system over time, but it truly won't matter, because I know the cells that I got injected into my heart will last forever.


I look forward to the day that all can benefit from this cure. Take Care for now and God Bless.  






Ken Tenbusch