A woman who has lived with diabetes for 60 years, surviving two near-fatal hypos, has been awarded a medal for her achievements at managing her conditions.
Anne Bone, from Irthington, near Brampton, has lived with type 1 diabetes since the age of three, to honour her achievements at managing the condition, Diabetes UK awarded her a medal.
The mark diabetes week, she explains her six-decade long journey with insulin and the changes she has lived through since her pre-school diagnosis in 1961 at the age of three.
Anne said: "I can still remember some of the time leading up to a fairly lengthy stay in hospital. I recall mum took me to the GP, Dr Scott, and the next thing I remember was waking up in a hospital bed with other children around me.
"Eventually mum came to take me home."
Methods back then were different to today and patients, families, and carers were expected to learn quickly.
It was a steep learning curve for Anne's mum who had to administer her insulin as soon as they got home.
"Unbeknown to her, the hospital had purposely let me go into hypo so that mum had to deal with it straight away," she added.
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"They were somewhat hard in those days - no messing. It was only ever mum who cared for me and she did an amazing job.
"Mum had to practice on an orange and the insulin then had to be drawn and mixed together in the same syringe. I cannot actually ever remember crying due to the injections but how dreadful it must have been injecting your three-year-old daughter every day with one of those."
“The whole thing then had to be sterilised by boiling and the needle sharpened before the next jab. Blood testing was done at the diabetes check-ups every six months but you could wait hours for your results before you had any chance of seeing the consultant.”
To check that a person’s diabetes is being managed properly, urine tests are undertaken. These measure glucose and an acidic chemical called ketones that the body produces when there isn’t enough glucose.
Anne added: "Back then we then tested urine at home with a pipette, a test tube and poisonous caustic soda tablets.
"Together they effervesced quite violently and then indicated the glucose levels.
"The physical side of treating type 1 was very different to today's standards, but it was all we had.
"In my humble opinion, something that was barbaric even to look at, was the Palmer Injector, invented in 1955 by Charles Palmer, a Scottish farmer.
"He preferred this method as it shot the needle through the skin at lightning speed. I have to admit that I did own one but I was too squeamish to use it more than just the once when it left a nasty bruise.
"I must have preferred my own gentler way of injecting.
"As I said and always will, mum was an amazing lady. She read my diabetes like a book and got me through many infections, sickness and injuries without the need for hospitalisation.
"I never had school dinners as mum needed to know exactly what I was having. I remember crying once because I hadn’t managed to eat all that mum had given me for our mid-morning break, but I was allowed the time to finish it in the classroom. I do recall being upset in the Junior school as I was missing out on the activities going on, but I must have been pretty fit because I walked to and from school. Apart from that I was treated the same as the other kids. I’ll guess though that they kept an extra eye on me just in case.
“When I went to work at a Water Authority aged 16 years, I was given paid time off to attend the clinics that I needed to go to which was a weight off my mind.
“I had the normal ‘hiccups’ of drinking too much and partying during my teenage years. Even so, I didn’t go too extreme so I made it through that time fairly unscathed thankfully.”
During the years Anne has learned how to live with, and monitor, her diabetes and she had to learn quickly that these things change over time.
“I had one of just two major hypos in my life in 2017 where the paramedics basically saved my life," she continued.
"My husband Trevor did warn them that when I came round I would be quite angry at myself – how right he was! I did apologise to them though. It was this event that made me realise that I needed to pay closer attention to the insulin and its’ reaction to food and timings as my system was obviously changing quite dramatically.
“I now keep my own personal notebook on carb amounts in the foods I eat. I also didn’t realise that there was a glucose pen available before this – but I keep one in the fridge now just in case. There have been few have been quite a few changes of fast acting insulin and lots of adjustments in amounts and my routine before I found my niche.
“In 60 years insulin development has really moved forward. I’ve learnt an awful lot about the mind boggling evolution of insulin; it has been a fascinating journey and one that I will continue.
“I feel that I’ve been lucky in that my ‘Diabetes life’ has been fairly good to me; you get on with it because you have no choice. I’ve had the odd ‘burn-out’, especially as I am getting older and the diabetes is not being as kind to me these days.
“I now use the new Libre Sensor as it is so versatile, especially when out walking with my dog. It can also be used as an app on your phone.
“My husband Trevor has learned and put up with so much during our 38 years together with my other ‘companion’ always being there. He puts up with the mood swings due to blood sugars and has looked after me brilliantly. What a guy!”
Annette Routledge, specialist diabetes nurse at the Cumberland Infirmary, said: “It was a pleasure to apply for Anne’s 60 year Diabetes Medal from Diabetes UK.
“For a good proportion of the time Anne has had Diabetes there was little in the way of accurate blood glucose monitoring.
“It is absolutely impossible to manage Diabetes to maintain target blood glucose control all the time and Anne describes the challenges of teenage rebellion, feeling tired and burnout with her Diabetes. Even with these hiccups as Anne describes them it is absolutely inspirational that Anne has virtually no Diabetes complications.
“There has been a great deal of research and development in Diabetes to look at how people living with Diabetes, their lives can be made easier while maintaining target blood glucose control.
"This has involved the production of new insulin and the design of new technology to deliver insulin and monitor blood glucose.”
A range of information and advice is available on the diabetes.uk website: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/ or on the Trust website: https://www.ncic.nhs.uk/services/diabetes
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