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Tuesday February 7th, 2012  
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Quote of the Week
"(This procedure) has increased my quality of life so very much."
- Patricia Pichurski  


Kimberley Massey photo
Hillcrest Resident Patricia Pichurski underwent an islet cell transplant procedure last September and says her quality of life has significantly improved, even allowing the insulin-dependant Type 1 diabetic to go off of insulin injections.
Patricia Pichurski, an insulin-dependant diabetic for the past 49 years, had her life changed last September, when she underwent an islet cell transplant.
The procedure, performed at the Islet Transplant Clinic of the University of Alberta hospital in Edmonton - the only place the procedure is offered in Canada - takes healthy islets (clusters of the cells which produce insulin - a hormone central to the regulation of glucose, carbohydrates and fat metabolism - in the pancreas) from the pancreas of a deceased donor, which are then transplanted into the patient’s liver.
The procedure is designed to allow insulin-dependant Type 1 diabetics to significantly decrease their need for insulin injections and testing of their glucose levels, thereby reducing physical and financial burdens.
“This transplant made a very big difference in my life,” said Pichurski, who was diagnosed with diabetes in 1962 at the age of 16.
“I am thankful each and every day for the donor and his/her family, who made the decision to donate these islets, and that I was the one to receive them.”
Over the past 10 years, Pichurski had to take a minimum of five insulin shots a day, testing her glucose levels 12-18 times throughout the course of the day.
She had to check her levels before she drove, before and after any exercise (and sometimes during) and her levels would often spike and drop significantly with no warning and for no apparent reason.
“I decided to have the procedure done because of the severe instability of my glucose readings and how difficult it was to plan to do something because of the many changes in my levels,” she said.
“It was both physically and emotionally tiring and was very difficult on my husband and family.”
Pichurski has been off insulin since late September following the procedure on September 9th and is only required to test her glucose levels twice daily.
She noted that her average glucose levels are in the 5.1 range (an ideal reading is between four and

“I am so much more relaxed and stress-free, diabetes wise, than I was prior to the transplant,” she said.
Although she is experiencing some minor side-effects - such as nausea and itchy skin - and there is a cost associated with the dispensing fee of her anti-rejection medication (the majority of the cost is covered by her AB Blue Cross plan) as well as the cost of travel to Edmonton for the procedure, Pichurski said she does not regret undergoing the procedure.
She added that the costs are far less than the average $2,000 she was paying annually for her insulin, glucose strips, needles and other diabetic supplies.
“I definitely feel it was worth it and would do it again in a heartbeat if necessary,” said Pichurski, adding that her only regret is not having the procedure done while her husband was still alive.
“He would have enjoyed this wonderful change in my health so much.”
Throughout the entire process leading up to the transplant, Pichurski said everyone she consulted with stressed to her the importance of being aware of the possible risks of the surgery - which include rejection, infection and the possibility that the procedure could not work at all.
However, she said she was excited by the possibility of having her levels stabilize and requiring less insulin, even if it didn’t work like it was supposed to.
“The fact that I am insulin free is an added bonus,” she said.
“It has increased my quality of life so very much.”
Pichurski encourages other diabetics to consider the procedure which has worked so well for her and to get in contact with the Islet Transplant Office with any questions or concerns and see if they qualify for the procedure.
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