Joan Barrett

Townsville Bulletin - - NQ Life -

SUR­VIV­ING di­a­betes for 60 years has left Joan Barrett wary of sac­cha­rine life sto­ries. Her jour­ney since her first in­sulin in­jec­tion, aged 10, has taken her around the world, through di­vorce, re­mar­riage and heart surgery to a stone house near the Bur­dekin River shared with dogs, birds, snakes and her hus­band, Jim.

She feels the gold medal Di­a­betes Aus­tralia gave her last Novem­ber for 60 years’ vic­tory over di­a­betes mel­li­tus should carry Jim’s name as well as hers.

‘‘ I could not have lived the last part of my life with­out Jim, be­cause I have needed him, es­pe­cially af­ter the by­pass,’’ Joan said this week.

‘‘ He is my guide – he can tell if I am go­ing to have prob­lems.’’

They met in Mount Isa in the early 1970s while Joan and her young daugh­ter, Karen, were staying with Joan’s sis­ter and broth­erin-law, Irene and Jim Cun­ning­ham.

Jim had grown up in Mount Isa and es­tab­lished a reg­is­tered goat dairy, with a home-de­liv­ery round.

‘‘ I thought he seems a nice fel­low – I liked an­i­mals too, if not I could not have lived with him.’’

She had spent the pre­vi­ous decade work­ing as a sec­re­tary in Lon­don, trav­el­ling around Europe and mar­ried to her first hus­band, who worked in the fur trade.

But she was a North Queens­lan­der at heart, hav­ing been born in Bowen in 1939, youngest of Jack and Gla­dys Well­don’s four chil­dren.

Her sis­ter Beryl, 16 years her se­nior, was Bowen Hos­pi­tal ma­tron in 1950 when she was di­ag­nosed with type one, in­sulin-de­pen­dent di­a­betes mel­li­tus.

The doc­tor who recog­nised her thin­ness and wa­ter-crav­ing as symp­toms of di­a­betes sent her to Townsville Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal.

Beryl farewelled her with an ice­cream she tipped would be her last.

Joan spent six weeks in hos­pi­tal and re­turned to Bowen for Christ­mas with a month’s sup­ply of in­sulin, a sy­ringe and re­us­able nee­dles.

She had

learnt

to

ster­ilise

the

Joan with her gold medal and left with Jim

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