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[IP] Steven Craig (islet cell transplant recipient)
I received this from a friend of mine who also has a child with diabetes. I
have no idea if this story has merit, but wanted to pass it along for those
who followed the story of Steven Craig after his islet cells transplants.
A COURAGEOUS HERO
A Brave Soldier
Steven Craig is Gone but Not Forgotten
by Scott King
I was very saddened to find out that Steven Craig, an islet cell transplant
patient that we have read about on so many occasions in the magazine,
had died at the age of 43. It seems that Mr. Craig took his own life, and
his death was not a result of his diabetes, or was it?
I had met him on a few occasions; and from outward appearances he seemed
like a man who had it all - including a cure for his diabetes. This is why
his suicide came as such a shock. Why did he do it? As I began to ask
questions, pieces of an incredibly complicated puzzle began to fall into
As I mentioned before, I knew Steven and had been reporting on him since
his first transplant in 1993 conducted by Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD. Before
his first islet transplant, he was in real bad shape. He had constant pain
in his feet and legs which made it almost impossible for him to walk. He
had hard to heal foot ulcers, retinopathy and documented progressive
sensory loss from nerve damage. (Steven's first islet transplant was
published in The Lancet, April 16, 1994.)
After the experimental transplant, Steven had an amazing turnaround in his
health. He no longer needed insulin injections, the constant leg and foot
pain had disappeared, he was able to walk again, his nerve function
improved and a foot ulcer healed in only seven days. In addition, he was
able to have a full-time job for the first time in 10 years. He had
increased energy and a general feeling of improved health. Steven received
two more booster transplants, the last one in 1996.
The past few years he spent in a flurry of campaigning on the benefits of
islet transplantation for his transplant doctor, Dr. Soon-Shiong. Besides
repeated television appearances in this country, he traveled to Europe and
Australia to speak to groups about his recovery.
Just recently, at the diabetes conference "A Day of Hope" in Palm Springs,
I watched the television cameras filming him. He embodied our great hope
for a "cure" for diabetes which we all wanted desperately to believe in. A
local pediatric endocrinologist shepherded in a group of 70 youngsters with
diabetes to hear Steven speak about islet transplantation. Most
importantly, he offered these children hope. He then spoke to the adult
audience of 1,500 people about his transplant and the marvelous work which
Dr. Soon-Shiong had done.
Now reflecting on the tragedy of his death, I try to remember every nuance
of that day. At what point did he give up his own hope?
That evening he seemed warm and witty. I had dinner with him and he was
very engaging, fun and interesting to talk with. I asked about his visit to
Washington, D.C. where he had gone to advocate for more funding for islet
transplants. One thing I remember was that Steven truly wanted to help
people with diabetes.
Another thing I remember is that Steven was walking with a cane, which is
unusual for someone only 43 years old.
I think of that now and can't help but wonder at the more serious
underlying stresses that Steven must have been dealing with. And that his
life must have been more difficult than anyone except for his closest loved
ones could've known.
The truth was that Steven's transplanted islets were failing. He needed to
test his blood sugar often and took NPH insulin when his readings weren't
low enough. A person close to him, says they ranged from 110 to 156. No one
has told me exactly how many units a day he was taking.
Steven had also become dependent on Demerol, a very strong and addictive
pain killer, similar to Morphine. This addiction was perpetuated by the
often unbearable, excruciating leg pain from his neuropathy. He was
reverting to his pre-transplant self. Besides being in pain he must have
been scared too. Demerol eased the pain.
I also heard through the grapevine that Dr. Soon-Shiong had told Steven he
was not eligible for any more islets. I've called Soon-Shiong myself to ask
if this was the case, but he has not returned any of my calls, so this is
As I continued to look into the mystery of Steven's death I also found that
he had had numerous personal entanglements including financial and marital
problems. It seemed he was burning up his life as fast as the islets wound
down inside of him. He was living his life like there was no tomorrow.
As with any death that comes so suddenly and shockingly as Steven's, there
are numerous questions left behind that may never be answered. One thing is
certain, Steven Craig made a brave and lasting contribution to the diabetic
community. He was a foot soldier in our fight to find a cure, and his name
will not be forgotten.
Insulin-Pumpers website http://www.bizsystems.com/Diabetes/
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