Robin Rabun counts her blessings. For years she lived in constant pain.

I'd been fighting with this for so many years and I felt so, so bad and so, so sick. I can't even describe it to anybody, how bad you feel, she said.

She had chronic pancreatitis.

As time went on, it just progressively got worse to where I was taking pain medication 24/7, she said.

Her only other option was removing her pancreas, but that put her at risk for other complications.

To remove the whole pancreas can be very debilitating, and patients can develop a very brittle form of diabetes, said Dr. Katy Morgan, Associate Professor of Surgery at Medical University of South Carolina.

In an innovative procedure, surgeons removed Robin's pancreas, took out the insulin-producing islet cells and then transplanted them back into Robin's liver. The goal - her liver would start to function like a mini pancreas.

Then they can make insulin for the patient so the patient has an easier to control form of diabetes, or perhaps even no diabetes at all, said Dr. Morgan.

Studies show that a third of patients don't require insulin.

And the other two-thirds do have some islet function, and so they have a much easier to control form of diabetes, said Dr. Morgan.

Today Robin is diabetes-free. She's dedicated to staying healthy and enjoying the next chapter of her life.

Pancreatitis is caused mainly by alcohol use or by gallstones, but it can also be inherited.

Patients with type 2 diabetes have a much higher risk for pancreatitis than the general population.

Read or Share this story: