Rita Hart - Islet Cell Recipient
Rita Hart was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at the age of 6. At 21, the first signs of diabetic retinopathy appeared, and she began the first of many laser surgeries in both eyes. In 1996, a major hemorrhage left her blind in the left eye, until a vitrectomy was performed that restored her sight. The disease also brought additional complications, including frequent and sudden hypoglycemic reactions, and the need for surgery to correct bone loss under her gums, carpal tunnel surgery, arthroscopic surgery in her shoulder and cataracts. After learning of islet cell transplantation research through one of her doctors, she discovered the website for the Diabetes Research Institute (www.drinet.org). She immediately completed an application, and after extensive testing which included two trips to Miami from her home in Pennsylvania, Rita was accepted and underwent her first islet cell transplant in July of 2001, after which her insulin needs were cut in half and her hypoglycemic reactions ceased. Three weeks later, she underwent her 2nd transplant and was immediately insulin-independant. Six months later, however, her blood sugars began to rise, and she had to again go back on insulin, but she continued to require only 50% of her pre-transplant dose, and the hypoglycemic reactions still did not return. On July 9, 2003, Rita underwent a third islet cell transplant and is once again insulin-independant. Rita credits the DRI with "giving me incredible freedom and giving me back a future I never, ever dreamed was possible!" Rita currently lives in Florida with her husband, Peter.