Chelsea Holloway had been living the majority of her life in and out of hospital suffering severe stomach pain, diagnosed with pancreatitis when she was just 10 years old.
Pancreatitis is a disease that causes inflammation of the pancreas, which produces the hormone insulin that regulates blood sugar levels.
Once Chelsea was diagnosed with this hereditary condition, her four siblings were tested and it was discovered that her younger brother and sister also have the same condition.
The extreme stomach pain Chelsea experienced forced her to miss out on schooling, and cancel work commitments at the last minute. Seeing friends was extremely hard as she would be forced to cancel due to pain or being in hospital.
“I had been in and out of hospital my entire teenage life and last year I had a month’s stay in hospital, missing out on school. I knew I couldn’t continue like this at 17-years-old and facing my final year of schooling this year,” Chelsea said.
“I play indoor netball for South Australia and there had been many trips away that I had to miss out altogether from the pain. I would land back in Adelaide and go straight to the hospital. I was in so much pain I felt like I spent my life in hospital.”
Living on the strongest painkillers, Chelsea knew something needed to be done as she was struggling to live with the constant pain.
Connecting with Professor Toby Coates
Hearing about Professor Toby Coates’ successful islet auto transplant procedure on seven-year-old Gary (pictured above), who was Australia’s first paediatric patient to undergo this operation, Chelsea wanted to find out more.
“My mum and I got in contact with Prof Coates and that’s when things started to look up. It was a year of preparation and lots of appointments but Prof Coates was absolutely outstanding and was very clear on everything regarding my impending operation,” Chelsea said.
In April 2017, Chelsea underwent the long operation where she was under anaesthetic for over 10 hours and in intensive care for five days. The operation consisted of taking out Chelsea’s pancreas, part of her stomach, bowel and small intestine.
Her pancreas was then flown to Melbourne where they extracted islet cells from her pancreas and sent it back to Adelaide. The doctors infused the cells into her liver and now Chelsea’s progress will determine if the operation was successful or not. To date, the procedure has been deemed as a huge life-changing success.
“So far, the doctors are extremely happy with my progress and I can’t thank them enough for giving me my life back. I knew I had done the right thing when I was discharged from hospital and no longer living with constant pain,” Chelsea said.
“I just turned 18 and I was able to celebrate that which was very special.”
Not only can Chelsea now live a normal life but it has brought her family closer together as she isn’t constantly being rushed to hospital.
“It has not only changed my life but my whole family’s life too. I’m so grateful for Prof Coates, his research and his team who have given me a normal life pain free.”