Organ transplant recipient celebrates new life


Louise Taylor didn't cry 20 years ago when doctors said she had severe juvenile diabetes.

Not until Christmas.

The tears came when her mother took out the flour, milk, and eggs to make holiday cookies and the 7-year-old Pasadena girl understood that she would never taste them again.

Today, 28 years old and eager for every tomorrow, Louise Taylor can eat anything she wants.

Science and the University of Maryland Medical Center have given her a new pancreas, a new kidney and a new life.

"I never knew how really sick I was because I never felt good," she said. "Now I've got energy. I want to do things."

In the gray chill of a summer rain yesterday, Ms. Taylor and scores of her friends and relatives celebrated the one-year anniversary of her successful pancreas and kidney transplant, one of only 22 ever performed in Maryland.

They partied with hot dogs and hugs; cookies and champagne; baked beans and rock 'n' roll; and a big sheet cake decorated with Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie.

Bert represents her new pancreas and Ernie is her healthy


Also at the party were fellow double-organ recipients Kevin Lepley, who had the surgery in late 1991, and Kim Dodd, who got her new pancreas and kidney in April.

Dr. Stephen Bartlett, the UM Medical Center surgeon who fixed them up, was out of the country.

He did the first of the state's 22 pancreas and kidney transplants last July.

"For the first time when I went to get my driver's license I didn't have to check the box that says diabetic," said Ms. Taylor, who has a job with the public works department at the Naval Academy. "I can say the word now -- diabetic -- without cringing."

Because of Bert and Ernie, she said, the past 12 months have been her first true year of life.

Before that, all she knew was sickness.

The pancreas she was born with would not produce insulin, which regulates sugar levels in the blood and urine. The condition is known as diabetes, a disease in which blood vessels are progressively destroyed, particularly in the organs.

Milder cases of diabetes can be controlled with insulin injections, but the daily shots weren't enough to stop the deterioration of Ms. Taylor's organs.

"The serious complications started when I turned 18 -- boom, boom, boom -- I wasn't getting a break," she said. "I was going blind, my kidneys were failing, I had a heart attack and was losing feeling in my feet. This time last year I couldn't walk. The future was something I didn't think about. I never asked the doctors how long I would live."

The deterioration stopped last Aug. 17 when Ms. Taylor received the insulin-producing pancreas of a 23-year-old man and one of the donor's good kidneys.

Her character has changed, too.

"I'm not so shy anymore. I'm a lot more confident," she said. "I attribute it to the personality of my new organs. I used to concentrate on just getting through the day. Now I want to get married and have a family. I want to go to college and dedicate myself to donor awareness."

In the end -- at least the way things have turned out so far -- Louise Taylor can finally see what purpose were served by her 20 years of suffering.

"There was nobody to tell me what this would be like a year ago and I want to be there for others going through it," she said. "God did this for a reason. He had something in mind for me besides an early death."

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