Kidney-pancreas transplant ends diabetic struggle for woman

Mary Jackson was cured of her diabetes following a simultaneous pancreas and kidney transplant.

For years, diabetes robbed Mary Jackson’s quality of life.

Like a thief, her symptoms were stealthy, at first leading doctors to conclude she had Type 2 Diabetes. However, her 19-year journey of managing her condition with oral insulin only left her feeling worse.

“Additional testing showed that I actually had Type 1 Diabetes, and years of taking the wrong treatment left my kidneys working at 28 percent,” said Jackson. “Since I’m adopted, I didn’t know I was predisposed to diabetes, and it was another blow to know that I was now in a fight for my life as a result of taking the wrong medicine.”

Jackson’s nephrologist placed her on at-home dialysis and encouraged her to add her name the National Transplant Registry as a kidney-pancreatic transplant candidate. All potential transplant recipients are listed in this nationwide database, and hundreds Americans with Type 1 diabetes undergo kidney-pancreatic transplantation each year, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

After a year of dialysis, Jackson learned about the Carlos and Marguerite Mason Solid Organ Transplant Center at Augusta University Health and moved to Augusta to begin treatment. For two years, the center’s staff closely monitored Jackson’s health while providing her with the proper treatment and education to help her manage her condition.

During her time at AU Health, there were two instances when it seemed Jackson matched a donor, but thorough testing found the organs were not viable. Then, four days after her 40th birthday, Jackson got a call at 3 a.m. with the news she had been waiting on.

“The Kidney Transplant Coordinator told me to come to the hospital right away because it seemed as if they matched me with a donor,” said Jackson. “I was so excited to get this news, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high since I had experienced this twice before already. I stayed positive, but I prepared for the worst.”

Jackson’s doctors conducted more tests while she waited in her hospital room, and then she got the official news.

“They told me they could do the procedure, but it was bittersweet because the donor was a young man who lost life unexpectedly,” said Jackson. “I can only imagine how tough the decision to donate must have been for that family, but I am so grateful their bravery saved my life.”

Hours after surgery, Jackson took a few laps around her hospital room amazed at how well she felt. In fact, she says she feels like a new woman and wouldn’t trade her new life for the world.

“You can get so used to feeling bad that you almost forget what it’s like to feel good,” said Jackson. “I felt great after the surgery, and I know part of that was due to the care that I got at AU Health.”

Not only is Jackson feeling better, but Dr. Carlos Zayas, chief of Transplant Nephrology and medical director of Transplant Nephrology and Transplantation Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, says the transplant reversed her diabetic symptoms.

“This procedure cured Jackson of her diabetes, because it restored her normal glucose levels and stopped the progression of complications associated with the condition,” said Zayas, “Mary was in a long health battle, and it is stories like hers that keep our team motivated to help give people back their lives.”

Since 1968, AU Health’s Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program has conducted over 2,600 transplants and continues being a nationwide leader in transplantation care. On Sept. 29, the medical center will hold a 50th Anniversary Celebration for the program giving patients, donors and staff an opportunity to meet and share their stories. For more information about this event or the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program, call 706-721-2888.

About AU Health’s Transplant Program

Augusta University Health is home to the 14,000-square-foot Carlos and Marguerite Mason Solid Organ Transplant Center, and over 2,600 lifesaving kidney and pancreas transplants have been performed at the medical center since 1968. AU Health is one of 19 hospitals in the United States and the only medical center in Georgia, to be selected to take part in the initial Collaborative Innovation and Improvement Network that aims to improve kidney transplantation nationwide. AU Health is also a two-time national Kidney Transplant Center of Excellence.

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Written by
Danielle Harris

Danielle Harris is Senior Media Relations Coordinator at Augusta University. Contact her to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at 706-721-7511 or

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Written by Danielle Harris

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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