'It's a race against time for my wife's life'

By Jana Smit
22 January 2017

The young mom from Roodepoort weighs just 40 kg. And if she loses anymore weight, she could suffer organ failure.

Candice Castle weighs just 40 kg.

The young mother from Roodepoort, suffers from chronic pancreatitis.

Her husband, Lee, says according to doctors she could suffer organ failure if she loses any more weight.

Candice’s pancreatitis is one of the most painful illnesses and makes eating virtually impossible.

She will have to undergo an operation to prevent the onset of a life-threatening form of diabetes – Brittle diabetes.

Even insulin injections can barely control it. The pancreas is responsible for the digestion of food and the manufacture of insulin to break down sugar. People suffering from diabetes do not produce any insulin.

The enzymes that are supposed to be digesting her food are presently digesting her pancreas. The result is that the beta cells – small groups of cells that manufacture insulin – are being damaged daily.

PHOTO: Supplied PHOTO: Supplied

The operation involves the removal of her pancreas. The cells from her pancreas will then be pumped directly into her liver until a pancreas transplant can be done.

Without the operation Candice has almost no chance of surviving. “She’s literally in a race against time,” Lee says.

The couple have a two-year-old son, Nathan, whom Candice describes as their  “miracle baby”. They struggled to fall pregnant and had many fertility treatments before Nathan was born.

A quote Candice obtained from the University of Minnesota states that a pancreas transplant costs more than $380 000 (about R5,13 million). The organization Rare Diseases South Africa has set up a donations page to help Candice raise funds.

PHOTO: Supplied PHOTO: Supplied

According to America’s National Pancreas Foundation chronic pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that doesn’t heal or improve; it gets worse over time and leads to permanent damage. Chronic pancreatitis affects the body’s ability to digest food. Damage is done when enzymes responsible for digestion are activated before they’re released into the small intestine. The enzymes then attack the pancreas.

It's estimated five to 12 people in every 100 000 will develop pancreatitis.

“Chronic pancreatitis usually develops in patients aged between 30 and 40 and occurs more often in men than in women,” the foundation writes on its website.

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