Des Plaines Native Jumps at Experimental Surgery

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Allen Daily Herald Staff Writer

Jon Ericson takes chances.

As a child in the Des Plaines Explorers, he enjoyed canoeing trips, especially where the waters were white.

After settling in Niles as an adult, he took up parachuting.

Ten years ago, diagnosed with diabetes, he had a kidney transplant.

And on Monday, he beamed as he talked about being among a select number of patients - the first in Illinois - to have a new experimental operation that might diminish or eliminate his dependency on insulin.

Ericson didn't play the part of the weary patient in his room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He talked with exuberance and humility.

"I didn't know this procedure was coming, and I kind of feel guilty now," he said, explaining that only three weeks ago, in spite of his loss of sight, he celebrated his 50th birthday with a tandem sky dive.

"Had I known I was going to get a chance at this operation, I wouldn't have risked getting injured," Ericson said with a grin.

Ericson's operation was performed Saturday by Northwestern Memorial transplant specialist Dr. Dixon Kaufman, who transferred pancreatic islet cells from a donor. The cells, which are about the size of pepper grains, were injected through an intravenous tube into an abdominal artery.

Once the islet cells land in the liver, they can take root and ideally produce insulin as if they were in the pancreas. …