Woman Suffering From Diabetes and Renal Failure Saved with Dual Pancreas and Kidney Transplants at the Miami Transplant Institute

By: Krysten Brenlla

For Violet Forbes, traveling the world was part of her daily routine as a marketer for horse show championships.

Along with her work, her daily habits included routine blood sugar checks multiple times a day.

“I developed type-1 diabetes in my 20s,” the 64-year-old Rhode Island native said. “I had a brother who was also diabetic from childhood – minimal carbs, no orange juice, sugar-free syrup on our pancakes on Sundays. It was just a way of life.”

Forbes was insulin-dependent for more than 40 years, but she lived an active and healthy lifestyle, and kept her diabetes under control. However, one day after getting her teeth cleaned, she felt extremely sick, to the point where she could barely keep any food down and couldn’t walk to the bathroom on her own.

“I originally thought I caught the flu, and thought the symptoms would subside after a few days, but a week later, I still felt those same flu-like symptoms,” she said. “I decided to get it checked out by my doctor – that’s when I received my diagnosis.”

Doctors discovered that Forbes’ kidneys were working at 10 percent capacity. She was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and required dialysis to survive.

“When I heard the diagnosis, it was like I was hit by bus – I didn’t really know what to think,” Forbes said. “My doctors sat me down and explained everything I could do, and at that time, it really felt like too much to deal with.”

For more than three years, Forbes was on peritoneal dialysis, a treatment to remove waste from her kidneys, while waiting on the transplant list for a kidney match at a South Florida transplant center.

Nevertheless, as the years went by, her condition worsened, and she developed several diseases that affected her blood vessels and kidneys – she needed a transplant soon, or she could die waiting.

When her medical team informed her that the Miami Transplant Institute (MTI), an affiliation between Jackson Health System and UHealth – University of Miami Health System, could transplant her pancreas and kidney at the same time, she called the next day.
“When we first assessed Violet’s case, the combination of multiple medical conditions and her age made her situation both unique and complex for our team,” said Mariella Ortigosa-Goggins, MD, medical director of the kidney pancreas transplant program at MTI, and a transplant nephrologist. “Given her age, many transplant centers turned her down, but we determined that she was a good candidate for a combined kidney and pancreas transplant.”

After an extensive evaluation, Forbes was accepted at MTI, and began her journey with the team of nephrologists and transplant surgeons to find the perfect pancreas and kidney match.

“Violet’s diabetes had severely impacted her blood vessels and kidneys, but at MTI, we have a specialized approach to treating diabetic patients requiring kidney and pancreas transplants,” said Mahmoud Morsi, MD, CPHQ, an abdominal organ transplant surgeon at MTI. “Despite the challenging nature of Violet’s case, we had every confidence in our skilled team’s ability to provide the care she needed.”
Just three weeks after being placed on MTI’s transplant list, Forbes received the call that would forever change her life.

“They called me and told me they found the perfect match for both my kidney and pancreas, and in just 15 minutes, I was packed and in the car,” Forbes said.

As Forbes was getting ready for surgery, the team found that she suffered from hypercoagulability, or the tendency to develop blood clots. To prevent clots from forming in her newly transplanted organs, the team decided to keep Forbes on blood thinners.

Additionally, the team used a technique that left her surgical site accessible after the procedure, which allowed them to confirm her new kidney and pancreas were functioning properly.

On February 8, 2023, Forbes underwent a successful pancreas/kidney transplant, and spent 12 days in the hospital before she was discharged on February 20.

“Our upmost priority was to preempt any potential mistakes or complications, and that informed our unique approach during the surgery,” Dr. Morsi said. “Our measures resulted in Violet experiencing immediate graft function. Remarkably, for the first time in 45 years, she was free from the need for insulin.”

“Violet is a true example that age is just a number,” Dr. Goggins said. “Since her transplant, she is doing excellent, and is now cured from diabetes.”

For now, Forbes is looking forward to a new chapter in life, where she no longer needs to worry about crushing dialysis tubes in her sleep, or taking insulin every day.

“Not only have my transplants freed me from all the machinery that I used to deal with daily, they also gave me my life back,” Forbes said. “I can do things now that I wasn’t able to before.”

As she gets stronger, Forbes hopes to see her family again in Rhode Island, and travel to different parts of the world she hasn’t been before.

She’s eternally grateful to the teams at MTI and at Jackson for saving her life, but also to the donor family for providing her with a second chance.

“My doctors and nurses, they were so wonderful – I never had a worry in the world that I wasn’t in the best hands possible,” Forbes said.
“Honest to God, I am so grateful – to both the donor, and the donor family. They gave me a chance at a better life.”

“To help somebody else live, it’s an incredible gift.”

Mariella Ortigosa-Goggins, MD


Mahmoud Morsi, MD