51 years of diabetes and insulin
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.”
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,” Mr Denton says.
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 phone 623-2508 or visit www.diabetesauckland.org. nz.
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.