People with Diabetes (PWD) had to boil their syringes? They were glass.
PWD did not have blood sugar monitors and so only could do unreliable urine tests?
PWD did not know about carbohydrates and based their food intake on calorie counting?
PWD used insulin from pigs?
PWD did not have insulin pumps?
I learned all of this yesterday when speaking to my new hero Joann.
Joann has had Type 1 diabetes for 54 years! She was diagnosed when she was 12 years old in 1958.
At the time, she was feeling terrible and she was thirsty all the time. Her mom took her to the pediatrician. Joann remembers not liking the doctor very much. She also remembers that all of his instructions relating to her condition were very confusing. They were confusing to both her and her parents.
However, her parents did not lie low.
Joann's mom wasn't her only advocate. She may have been strong, but when it came to the needles, she just couldn't give her young daughter the shots. Joann's father, on the other hand, had a fascination with medicine. He stepped up to the challenge and gave Joann her shots every morning. Every day he boiled the needles and gave her 125 units of slow-acting insulin. This was the only insulin she received all day. Then, she ate the exact same 1900 calorie food diet every single day! She told me that later in her life, she found out that her father, who worked in a factory for Ford Motor Company, would set his work schedule according to her shot schedule. Something that I am sure was not an easy task back in that day. What a man!
As she grew up, she remembers always being active. We talked about how exercise probably kept her blood sugar down and made her feel better. She said the only way to judge your blood sugar at that time was to "pay attention to how you felt". They did not have blood sugar monitors. Only glucose urine strips. It is amazing for me to think that a 12-year-old child was able to handle Type 1 diabetes only by being sensitive to how she felt! THAT is why she is my hero!
In her teens and twenties, Joann judged potential boyfriends by whether or not they could administer a shot.
Many were not up for the challenge. But one was and still is! Joann and John have been married for 44 years. They met when they were eight, in second grade.
They are both in this picture! So cute!
Throughout their years together, John has counted the number of shots he has given Joann. He says he has given her 10436 shots over the past 44 years! Now that is something worth noting. Guess he really was a keeper! Thankfully for them both, Joann now wears a pump and doesn't need the shots so much anymore!
She went on to adulthood to have two beautiful children and adopt another. During her first pregnancy, in 1969, she was so sick that she ate Cambell's soup every meal. She went to a neonatalist specialist who monitored her care. After nine long months of nausea, she delivered a little girl with curly red hair. After the baby was born, Joann says that she remembers that her own blood sugar spiked to over 500 (as measured by a blood test in the lab – no test meters) and her baby's dropped to zero. However, the doctor was able to stabilize both mother and the baby, who is now a 42-year-old healthy, funny woman with two great kids of her own!
That delivery scared everyone into deciding Joann should not have any more children. So, she and John adopted a wonderful boy! Their life was full until seven years later, it got a little fuller. Joann became pregnant again. She successfully delivered another boy. Diabetes and all (no zero blood sugars with this one! Phew!)
Joann's advice to everyone with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, "Just keep moving!"
She is now 66 and works 15 hours a week at her local library. She is a page and her job is to run around the library putting books back and taking books back. Even with all of her modern technologies, she still credits this exercise with feeling so great!
She also says, "If you simply follow the directions for diabetes, you can live an easier life."
Clearly, this advice has worked for her.
Congratulations Joann! You deserve a medal!
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