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Community Cares for the Kleins

By Staff | Jan 15, 2016

Connor Klein at the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Never have these words from Helen Keller rang more true than they did when our community came together to help a neighbor and a friend through hard times.

When Connor Klein was diagnosed with hereditary pancreatitis at the age of three, it was devastating to his family. Unfortunately for Connor and his family, last year he had genetic testing which revealed he has a rare form of the genetic disorder – one that has a high probability of leading to cancer of the pancreas.

In May of last year, Connor and his family were told by their doctor that surgery was needed and there were no other options. So after months of planning, surgery was scheduled for Jan. 8, 2016 at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. The surgery took a little over 12 hours, requiring the removal of Connor’s pancreas, gall bladder and spleen. The islet cells, which control the blood glucose, also needed to be transplanted, which occurs by removing the cells from the damaged pancreas and transplanting them back into the liver. If all goes as planned, his liver will take over on his insulin production.

Connor is not facing this alone. Along with his mother Erin, who has also gone through this, Connor’s father, Dale, has been doing everything he can to help. Connor also has two siblings, Abby, who is 11, and Parker, who is almost 2 years old.

In December, a benefit was done on Connor’s behalf and 770 people attended. It was a day which instilled hope and faith back into the family. While speaking to Erin about Connor’s situation, she wanted to relay how thankful the entire family is to live in such a caring community, and to have such amazing friends and family who have gone above and beyond to make this possible. Erin also said the continued prayers are wonderful and needed.

Connor is a young boy who, when not in the hospital, likes to watch football and basketball. He also likes to watch television shows, read books and play basketball. His favorite teams are the Green Bay Packers and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Hereditary pancreatitis, or HP for short, is a rare condition with only three to six cases per million individuals. His mother, Erin, also has the genetic disorder, which is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern – one copy of the altered gene in each cell is sufficient to cause the disorder. In some cases, an affected person inherits the PRSS1 gene mutation from one affected parent. Other cases result from new mutations in the gene and occur in people with no history of the disorder in their family.

According to the Genetics Home Reference website, which is maintained by the National Library of Medicine, “Hereditary pancreatitis is a genetic condition characterized by recurrent episodes of inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). The pancreas produces enzymes that help digest food, and it also produces insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar levels in the body. Episodes of pancreatitis can lead to permanent tissue damage and loss of pancreatic function.”

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