Summer 2006

Transplant Patient Profiles

Tara Rojas, Pancreas-Kidney Transplant Patient

When patients talk to Tara Rojas, an administrator with the UCSF Beta Cell Transplant Program, they know they have found a sympathetic ear. A former diabetic who spent two years on dialysis, Rojas received a combined pancreas-kidney transplant in 2001. She has been an enthusiastic cheerleader for beta cell replacement ever since. "I never believed I'd have a life without diabetes," she said.

Rojas, 42, said she felt "instantly better" after her transplant and wanted to give back something to the world of diabetes. With extensive administrative experience in health care settings, she convinced UCSF to hire her to help set up its fledgling pancreatic islet transplant program.

Even though she loves being part of the transplant team, Rojas reduced her work hours after the program was set up. With the birth of her first child, a daughter, 14 months ago, she needed the extra personal time. "Since my transplant, I've been able to do everything I dreamed of doing," Rojas said.

Ivan Barriga, Islet Cell Transplant Patient

"It's a different life without having to take insulin," said East Bay resident Ivan Barriga. The Wells Fargo mortgage consultant underwent two infusions of pancreatic islets — the first in January 2004 and the second in August 2005.

With the first injection, control of his type I diabetes improved dramatically. With the second injection, he was able to do away with insulin injections altogether.

Barriga's islet transplant was the first to be performed in Northern California. In the procedure, pancreatic islets, which contain insulin-secreting beta cells, are retrieved through extensive processing of a cadaver donor pancreas. They are then injected into the patient without need for major surgery. Most patients require several infusions of islets to achieve insulin independence.

The islet transplants have been a life-saving procedure for Barriga, 36, who was diagnosed at age 18 with type I diabetes. He was among the subgroup of diabetics who have great difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels. His body did not give the usual warning signs that his blood sugar was falling.

Instead, it would drop rapidly causing him to lose consciousness. Emergency room visits were all too frequent, Barriga said. All that has changed since his transplant. "It's a miracle," Barriga said. "You can't imagine what it's like."

Related Information

News Releases

UCSF Heart Transplants Cited for Excellence
The UCSF Heart and Vascular Center has been designated a center of excellence in heart transplants by Blue Cross and Blue Shield in California.

UCSF Medical School Among Nation's Best
The UCSF School of Medicine is among the nation's top 10 medical schools in seven of eight specialty programs in an annual ranking of U.S. News & World Report.

UCSF Receives Stem Cell Training Funds
UCSF and 15 other California institutions received the first year of funding for a three-year program to train stem cell scientists.