Helping a Warrior Heal

A wounded airman was part of history on Thanksgiving Day, becoming the first patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C., to undergo a procedure that allows his liver to produce insulin in place of his pancreas. SrA. Tre Porfirio, a 21-year-old communications technician from Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, was shot three times in the back by an insurgent Nov. 21 in Afghanistan. His wounds were so severe that he required 11 surgeries to reconstruct his abdomen and he lost his pancreas. Doctors at Walter Reed collaborated with specialists at the University of Miami to perform a pancreas islet cell transplant. Essentially, insulin-producing cells were harvested from Porfirio’s damaged pancreas and then successfully injected into his liver. So far, these cells are functioning well in the liver and Porfirio may be spared life-threatening and lifestyle-limiting diabetes, said his doctors. (AFPS report by Kristin Ellis)