51 years of di­a­betes and in­sulin

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Scott Mor­gan

Af­ter a life­time of liv­ing with di­a­betes, Gail El­li­son says she’d find it hard to live without the con­di­tion.

The Avon­dale res­i­dent last week re­ceived a Sir Charles Burns Award, given to peo­ple who have been on in­sulin for more than 50 years.

Mrs El­li­son was di­ag­nosed with the dis­ease when she was eight, and has been on in­sulin for 51 years.

Af­ter so many years of in­jec­tions, and more re­cently us­ing an in­sulin pump, she says to do any­thing else would be a for­eign con­cept.

“I’ve had to hide nee­dles be­cause I au­to­mat­i­cally pick it up to in­ject my­self.”

And while med­i­cal tri­als that would see pig cells help peo­ple pro­duce in­sulin have re­cently been ap­proved, Mrs El­li­son isn’t in­ter­ested in any mir­a­cle cures.

She says she wouldn’t want to give up all the friends she’s made at the Avon­dale sup­port group she co­or­di­nates in as­so­ci­a­tion with Di­a­betes NZ Auck­land.

“It’s great for the younger ones, but I don’t know what I would do.”

How­ever she says ad­vances in treat­ment have seen her live much longer than doc­tors ever pre­dicted.

“When I was young my mum and dad were told I might make it to my 21st birth­day. Then I was told 35.

“Life ex­pectancy is much bet­ter th­ese days,” she says.

Mrs El­li­son says the in­sulin pump she has used for the last six years reg­u­lates the lev­els of the drug much more ef­fec­tively than when she was in­ject­ing it.

“It’s more even doses, rather than up and down, up and down.”

If the lev­els aren’t even, di­a­bet­ics can go “hypo”, which can cause them to be­come light-headed and ir­ri­ta­ble.

The nee­dles have also changed over the years.

“We had such big nee­dles in those days. Dad used to sharpen them in the garage.”

Di­a­betes NZ Auck­land gen­eral man­ager John Den­ton says recog­nis­ing the 22 peo­ple who have been on in­sulin for more than 50 years is a great way to kick off Di­a­betes Aware­ness Week, which started yes­ter­day and runs un­til Mon­day.

“I sup­pose now treat­ments are so much bet­ter and peo­ple are looking af­ter them­selves more.”

But he says with di­a­betes rates con­tin­u­ing to rise, peo­ple need to ex­er­cise and eat prop­erly in or­der to slow the in­crease.

To en­cour­age di­a­betes preven­tion the or­gan­i­sa­tion is hold­ing walks at Omana Re­gional Park, Marae­tai, on Satur­day and Taka­puna beach on Sun­day.

Regis­tra­tion through gold-coin do­na­tion starts at 9.30am, with the walks beginning at 10.30am.

For more in­for­ma­tion call 623-2508 or visit www.di­abe tesauck­land.org.nz.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Pump it: Gail El­li­son re­cently re­ceived a Sir Charles Burns Award for be­ing on in­sulin for 51 years. For the past six years she’s used a pump rather than nee­dles to ad­min­ster the drug.

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