Life-changing Islet transplant gives Fall River woman new life

“I’m like a kid at Christmas getting that toy they wanted,” says Diann Pick-Robertson

FALL RIVER: Diann Pick-Robertson has a new lease on life, thanks to some new “cell mates.”

Pick-Robertson arrived home at Halifax Stanfield Airport from Edmonton, Alta. late on Dec. 12, greeted by friend Nigel Thorpe, and her parents. She was in Edmonton for an Islet cell transplant, something that is labelled as only an “experimental” surgery by N.S. Health.

“I have some new cell mates,” Pick-Robertson joked in a Dec. 15 interview at a Fall River coffee shop. “It has changed my world 150 per cent. I’m off insulin.

“It’s amazing how different it makes your life, in a positive way. It’s a new lease on life.”

Pick-Robertson has been on insulin for 44 years. She still finds herself wanting to check her sugars.

“It’s more because it was a habit more than anything,” she said. “When you’ve been doing it for so long, it’s a hard habit to break.”

She had the transplant on Oct. 20. Pick-Robertson, who along with Thorpe, are fixtures at Thursday night Lion Wing Night, travelled to Alberta in October to begin preparations for the surgery. Her sister Debbie went with her.

The doctors in Edmonton told Pick-Robertson they were surprised at how well she was doing. Most patients who get the Islet surgery require two surgeries. However, she only needed one.

“The diabetic specialist that followed the procedure once it was done told me I was one of the best patients they’ve ever had,” said Pick-Robertson. “He told me I went through it super easy, and I came out of it fantastic.”

She said the transplant took place Oct. 20, and by that Sunday she was off insulin—not completely, her long acting insulin of four units. She had been taking 14.

“The next time I saw him he took me off it completely,” she said. “There’s no more needles or anything. There’s no way to describe it to someone that hasn’t been through.

“It’s like a new person, a new life. There’s so much weight off my shoulders.”

Pick-Robertson said she’s not sure why the province classifies it as an “experimental” treatment. That’s her next battle—to make it happen here.

But for now she’s taking it day-by-day. It still doesn’t feel real, she said.

“I’m like a kid on Christmas morning with the toy they got that they wanted,” said Pick-Robertson.

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Pat Healey
Pat has grown up in East Hants, having called Milford, and now Enfield home. He graduated from the journalism program at Holland College in 2001, and has spent time at newspapers in NL and Alberton and Summerside, PEI before becoming a reporter/photographer at The Weekly Press/The Laker in October 2008. He has a rescue kitty named Asha that is much loved—and spoiled. Pat is also our "social engagement guru." Check him out on twitter!