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[IP] A new pumper - long



by Ed Bryant

Maybe you still think diabetes means a shortened life, serious
complications, and a great deal of pain and difficulty? Not necessarily.
Suppose I could put someone in front of you, who's had type 1 diabetes for
not 50, or 60, but a full 75 years? And she doesn't have any complications
worth mentioning ...

They say "the world's best proof is somebody who's already done it." Here
she is!

Violet ("Vi") Shugrue, from Norwich, Connecticut, is the same age as
insulin. She was born May 22, 1922, the year Drs. Banting and Best, from
Ontario, Canada, successfully isolated insulin from dogs' pancreases and
used it to successfully treat diabetes.

When Vi was five, in the spring of 1927, she developed familiar symptoms,
and was diagnosed with diabetes. "The doctor told my mom he doubted very
much I would make it to the age of 12. They didn't know how to treat it,"
she says.

Her family doctor missed by a mile, of course (she's 80 now), but it's
hardly surprising. Not many doctors were aware of insulin, back in 1927! Too
many remembered the days before insulin, when a diagnosis of diabetes was a
death sentence.

But Vi did the right things, the things you have to do to get by, when you
have diabetes. Guided by diabetes pioneer Dr. Elliot Joslin, founder of the
Joslin Diabetes Clinic, she took regular insulin, three shots a day. She
tested her sugars. She watched her diet.

"Mom couldn't handle it, giving me my injections, three times a day -- so I
learned how to inject myself, when I was very young. And, the syringe and
needle had to be boiled, three times a day."

There were no home blood glucose monitors, of course, so Vi did urinalysis:
"Seven drops of urine in the test tube; blue was 'negative,' and green meant
'a trace'."

And there were the dietary restrictions: No potatoes, no bread, no sweets
... "I could have two biscuits with each meal," says Vi.

And the insulin. In the beginning, there was only Regular. Protamine zinc
(PTZ), the first "longer-acting" insulin, arrived in 1936, and NPH insulin
in 1938. Lente insulin arrived in 1952, and Humalog in 1996.

"I've been put on all types of insulin," Vi says. "Now I use Humalog."

But what about the lifestyle? She describes it as "rather restricted," for
Vi's mom kept a close watch on her as she was growing up. She wasn't allowed
to go to birthday parties, and only a few close friends knew she had the
disease. "I didn't advertise it," she says. "I wasn't ashamed, of course; I
just didn't think it was good to advertise."

In those days, before blood glucose monitors and quick-acting insulin,
"staying on your diet" was critical. Things are easier now. And experience
has taught us that it is better if your friends and associates know ...

When Vi started high school, she was switched to the longer-acting insulin,
so she would not have to walk a mile home for lunch to take an injection.

The last serious diabetic incident Vi remembers, happened during high
school. "One of the pharmacists where we lived at that time gave my mother
the wrong kind of insulin for me," said Vi. She wound up in hospital for a
week, but, "I came out successfully." There were no long-term consequences.

Vi thrived. She finished her studies, earned her Teacher's Certificate, and
began a 35-year career as a first-grade teacher. She met and married
William, who she describes as: "a loving, considerate, and supportive
husband." They adopted a daughter, Diana, who is now 41 years old.

They even got a chance to visit the farm in Alliston, Ontario, Canada, where
Dr. Banting worked to develop insulin.

For about a year, Vi has used an insulin pump. You're never too old to learn
something new ...

"I used to have a good number of hypoglycemic episodes -- and I'm very
thankful my husband knows exactly how to treat it," she says, "but since I
got an insulin pump, I don't have half as many as I'd had before. The pump
regulates me much better than the insulin doses I was taking.

"My best advice to other diabetics? Follow your doctor's directions, and
watch your diet. And, get as much exercise as you're capable of doing. Other
than that, lead a normal life. Once in a while I get down, and say 'Oh gosh,
this is a nuisance,' but you can always find things to do."

The Joslin Clinic tells Vi she is one of the four people who have had
diabetes longer than anyone in the United States. She's had type 1,
insulin-dependent diabetes, for 75 years, and thrived. And she's not
finished yet.
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