Waiting for a Pancreas to Become Available

There is no way to know how long you will have to wait before a deceased donor pancreas becomes available for you. It is usually between 1 to 2 years. Your physician can give you some information based on your blood type, whether or not you have antibodies against other people's proteins ("sensitization"), and other factors. Be sure to ask. After you complete the evaluation, and you are accepted and listed for an organ, waiting may be difficult. It helps to remember that once you get the phone call about a possible match, things will move very quickly.

If you are having a combined pancreas/kidney transplant, you may also be waiting for a living donor to come forward. Again, this can be a difficult time and we are here to help and support you.

While you wait for the organ, keep your body and mind healthy:

  • See your doctor regularly
  • Take your medications as directed
  • Exercise to the best of your ability
  • Follow your prescribed diet
  • Do not smoke cigarettes. Quit if you are a smoker
  • Consider joining a support group of pre-and post-transplant patients

Update the Transplant Institute with annual Pap smears, mammograms and stress tests, if told to do so by your nurse coordinator. Keep a record of any hospitalizations, infections or blood transfusions to report at each scheduled visit.

Support groups can provide reassurance and comfort, information, friendship and help in dealing with the emotional issues surrounding chronic illness and transplantation. We offer a weekly support group for liver patients who are pre- and post-transplant, and plan to offer other groups for pancreas and kidney patients in the near future. Your social worker and psychologist can help direct you to other support groups held here at BIDMC and in your local community.

Mind Matters

It is especially important during this waiting time to stay positive and continue to address any personal growth and development challenges. We have a highly regarded behavioral health program to help people cope with the difficulties of chronic illness, to stop smoking, lose weight, treat depression and anxiety, and manage stress. You will work closely with the social worker and psychologist both before and after your transplant. We believe that your emotional well-being is important to the success of transplantation.

Multiple Calls and False Alarms

Unfortunately there is the chance that our team may call you to the hospital, only to find there is a problem with the new organ. Or you may come to the hospital with a medical problem - one that you did not know about - that could jeopardize your health or the success of the transplant. In these cases, it may not be possible to do the operation. Understandably this decision can be disappointing and heart-wrenching. You may feel sad, depressed, disappointed, worried and angry. Some patients say that it is a good "rehearsal" for when the transplant really does happen. Again, our behavioral health team is here to help and support you and your family during this difficult time.

Double-check Phone Numbers

Make sure we can contact you day and night, no matter where you are. We only have 60 minutes to accept or decline an organ for you, so it is critical that we know how to reach you at all times. Check to be certain that we have the right phone numbers for a family member or friend - someone who will always know where you are. We will contact this person if we can't reach you directly.