"I've got two new organs, feel fine and I'm very thankful," says a 40-year-old Southern Maryland man who has become the first person to survive a simultaneous kidney and pancreas transplant in a Maryland hospital.
Yesterday afternoon, Linwood "Gene" Mozingo of Leonardtown, a former homebuilder itching to get back to work, walked out of University of Maryland Medical Center apparently cured of his diabetes and more optimistic about life than he's been in a long time.
It is believed that Mozingo's newly transplanted organs came from Mike Reynolds, the Blast indoor soccer standout who died from a stroke July 1.
"I'm really grateful to that person who was my donor," Mozingo said. "Everything is the same, but I feel I'm just a little different."
Now, Mozingo no longer needs the insulin shots he's depended on daily for 22 years. The donor pancreas is producing the hormone, insulin, that his own defective pancreas could not. Insulin is needed to control sugar levels in the blood and help the brain function.
Mozingo, who was facing kidney failure, had suffered loss of side vision and damage to his nerve extremities -- all complications of his diabetes -- said he grabbed the chance for a dual transplant that would include a donor kidney.
"Without a transplant, it would have been dialysis or the end of life," he said.
The new organs have been functioning well since the July 2 transplant and Mozingo's chances for full recovery seem excellent, said Dr. Stephen T. Bartlett, the new director of transplant surgery at the UM Medical Center.
"He's cured of the diabetes as long as that pancreas continues to function," Bartlett said, noting that normally the pancreas would have failed by now if that were going to happen.
Still, this does not mean that Mozingo is home free. Rejection -- as in all transplants -- is an ever-present threat and, there is a 70 percent chance a rejection episode can happen, Bartlett said.
"But, if it is going to occur, it usually happens in the first three months after a pancreas transplant," the specialist said.
Mozingo will be monitored closely for any sign of organ rejection, which could be an elevated temperature, abdominal pain or any kind of drainage from the suture line. Meanwhile, he will be taking anti-rejection drugs -- prednisone, cyclosporin and immuran -- for the rest of his life.
Maryland organ procurement officials declined to identify his donor, described only as a 27-year-old black man living in Maryland who was a professional athlete. But, sources believe the organs came from Reynolds, who was 27 and black.
On the same day of the transplant, Reynolds had donated both kidneys and his pancreas, along with two or three other organs.
Reynolds suffered a stroke that killed him two days after the team was playing a group of inmates in a fun game of soccer-volleyball.
Kidney transplants have been performed successfully for many years here and around the world. But, pancreas transplants -- which are said to be technically difficult -- did not take hold until 1983.
Last year, 500 pancreas transplants were done world-wide, 60 percent of them in this country.
In 1985, Dr. Larry Pennington at the Johns Hopkins Hospital performed two dual kidney-pancreas transplants, but in both cases the patients died before they left the hospital. In 1985, Dr. Frederick R. Bentley, then at the University of Maryland hospital, did a kidney-pancreas transplant in which the patient survived, but the pancreas failed to secrete insulin.
Bartlett, who performed Mozingo's 5 1/2 -hour surgery, also did California's first successful kidney-pancreas transplant at the University of California at Davis in 1989. He's done nine kidney-pancreas surgeries, seven in California and two in Maryland. The second was a male patient, who underwent the transplant Sunday.
Besides new anti-rejection drugs, there have been some technical innovations since 1986 that have led to better success with pancreas transplants and dual kidney-pancreas transplants in which the patients are usually much sicker.
One of these has resulted in the drainage of the secretions from the new pancreas into the bladder, which reduces the risk of infection and allows for easier monitoring of rejection.