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Organ Donation Provides Diabetes Patients With Sudden, Life-Changing Cure

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Three diabetes patients were cured overnight this month after they received a new pancreas at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, showing how organ donations can help save lives. NY1's Health reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.

Both Leander Torres of Richmond Hill, Queens and Neal Bertron of Long Island have lived most of their lives with type 1 diabetes.

"You've got to take shots every night, maybe three to four times a day. It was a challenge," Torres says.

But after receiving new pancreata, they are now cured.

"It's a dramatic, immediate effect," says Dr. Lloyd Ratner, a transplant surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.

The new pancreas restored their bodies' ability to control blood sugar levels, meaning no more insulin shots, or finger pricks.

"It’s freedom, complete freedom," says Bertron. "I'm trying to comprehend all of it."

Bertron and Torres are two of three patients that received pancreas transplants within a 36-hour period at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in February.

"There are only about 1,200 pancreas transplants performed in the United States a year, so it's very unusual to have three done in one institution in such a short period of time," Ratner says.

In New York, the odds are even worse.

"New York has amongst the lowest registration rates on drivers' licenses and through an online registry of virtually all the states. We also have some of the lowest donation rates," Ratner says.

At NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, more than 70 people are waiting for pancreas transplants, hoping they too can get a new lease on life.

"They can live totally normal lives once they get out past the early period," Ratner says.

For Bertron, that means greater possibilities with his career.

"I don’t have to be in one location. I can go anywhere," Bertron says.

Torres admits the recovery has been hard, but is also excited about what's to come.

"Futuristic-wise? I don't think there's no stopping me," he says.

Ratner hopes as more people learn about how transformative transplants can be for those in need, they will be more willing to discuss the option with their loved ones, possibly turning one family's tragedy into another's miracle.

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