Sunday, November 28, 2010

Airforce Senior Airman Tre Porfirio

Remember Our Heroes

An 88th Communication Squadron voice network systems technician wounded in action on November 21, 2009, one year ago in Afghanistan, died Nov. 28, 2010 Senior Airman Tre Porfirio passed away while visiting friends over the Thanksgiving holiday in Missouri. He was 22 years old.

Porfirio, who is from St. Marys, Ga., was assigned to a small base near the border with Pakistan when he was shot three times by an insurgent on Nov. 21, 2009. He underwent two surgeries in Afghanistan and one in Germany before he was brought to Washington.

Tuesday was a sad day at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, as air force men and women mourned the loss of a friend.

Senior Airman Tre Porfirio, who made national news after undergoing ground breaking surgery after an ambush in Afghanistan, died on Sunday. He was visiting family in Missouri over Thanksgiving weekend when he died suddenly.

In November, 2009 Porfirio was shot three times in the back. The attack took place in a very remote area of Afghanistan, where his unit was installing communications lines.

The bullets shattered Porfirio's stomach. In a ground breaking procedure considered a medical miracle, doctors removed his bullet ridden pancreas, and flew the organ to the University of Miami.

Doctors there harvested islet cells from the pancreas and transferred them to his liver. The procedure saved Porfirio from living life with a severe case of diabetes.

2 News interviewed Porfirio in March, 2010. He appeared to be recovering well from the surgery, but said he was still tired and in pain. He was looking forward to the birth of his son.

February 24, 2010 (Hollywood, FL) Three months ago, US Senior Airman Tre F. Porfirio was critically wounded after being struck from behind by three high velocity bullets while serving in Afghanistan. On February 13, Porfirio made an extraordinary trip from Washington, D.C., to Miami to appear before an awestruck crowd of 600 at the Love and Hope Ball benefiting the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) – the very organization that helped save him from a life with diabetes. The gala’s theme, “Honoring America,” was certainly most appropriate given the presence of a true war hero and the patriotic announcement of two of the DRI’s most notable supporters.

“I almost died – twice from loss of blood – and once from the problems with my pancreas,” said the 21-year-old Airman, whose entire abdominal cavity needed to be restructured. “I have a child on the way. That is all I could think about [when I was shot.] I thought I was done.”

Porfirio’s injuries occurred on November 21 in a remote area of Afghanistan. He was operated on twice in field hospitals and then air lifted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he came under the care of Dr. Craig D. Shriver, chief of general surgery. Porfirio’s pancreas was damaged beyond repair, but removal of the organ would cause the most severe form of diabetes.

Walter Reed doctors then contacted the Diabetes Research Institute’s scientific director, Dr. Camillo Ricordi, who immediately agreed to help. The organ was removed and shipped from Washington, D.C., to Miami, where members of the DRI team spent six hours isolating the insulin-producing islet cells from the Airman’s pancreas.

Dr. Ricordi, a pioneer in the diabetes field, is world renowned for developing the method to isolate islets from the pancreas. The islets were flown back, and Dr. Ricordi assisted Walter Reed surgeons via the Internet in successfully infusing the isolated cells into Porfirio’s liver on Thanksgiving Day.

“It makes me feel good that while we are fighting to find a cure for a disease that affects 240 million worldwide, we can actually help one person at a time when the occasion presents itself,” said Dr. Ricordi.

“There’s no other patient in the world who has had their entire pancreas removed for trauma, survived, and had the pancreas islet cells put back in the liver and have them function 100 percent perfectly. Tre is not on any insulin. His sugars are normal. He really is a one-of-a-kind case,” stated Dr. Shriver.

At the Love and Hope Ball, Drs. Ricordi and Shriver were recognized for their efforts alongside Porfirio in front of an audience of DRI supporters, whose fundraising efforts over the past 36 years helped save this soldier from a life of diabetes.

Also apropos of this year’s theme, Love and Hope International Chairmen Linda and Barry Gibb announced their new American citizenship, something the music legend dreamed of when he was 17 years old.

“The Love and Hope Ball has had many different themes – all to raise money for the DRI. Tonight we give tribute to our country and our fighting men and women who allow us to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave,” Barry Gibb said. “The Diabetes Research Institute has come so far and is close to the defining moment when a cure is found. We salute the DRI and we salute our country, the United States of America.”

“Tre is the hero of the evening,” Dr. Ricordi added. “He risked his life in the war against terrorism, and it’s a miracle he is alive.”

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