Photo by Mike Maloney/London Community News/Twitter: mdmaloneyphoto
November is Diabetes Awareness Month and to help mark the occasion, St. Joseph’s Health Care (SJHC) presented 13 of its patients — all who have lived with diabetes for 50 years or more — with the 2012 Diabetes Half Century Award at a small ceremony held at the hospital on Wednesday (Nov. 21).
Diagnosed with the disease at the age of 16, Jim Palmer lived in Hanover at that time. He said that diabetes never stopped him from leading a normal life but at times felt like he was the only one in the world with the disease due to the lack of support and knowledge in his small community back then.
Palmer said the biggest challenge in the beginning was accepting he had the disease and learning about it. “You were in the dark, … You had to learn how to handle diabetes and it was an experience not just for me, but my whole family to go through.”
Jerry DeZwart was just seven month old when he was diagnosed. Having spent his whole life dealing with the disease, DeZwart said taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you have to do with diabetes.
Both Palmer and DeZwart agree that technology has made the day-to-day living with the disease much easier.
For Palmer, the biggest improvement over the last 50 years has been being able to perform much more accurate blood testing today as opposed to urine testing which they use to have to do.
For DeZwart, the insulin pump has been the biggest improvement, enabling him to better control the erratic highs and lows he experiences. “It’s a whole new world because of this one little machine that you hook up to yourself,” said DeZwart. “As long as your monitoring yourself properly and you work with the machine, you can live a really normal life.”
St. Joseph’s has been hosting the Half Century Awards for the past 10 years.
“It’s not easy living with diabetes for 50 years,” said Dr. Irene Hramiak, chair/chief of St. Joseph’s Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism and a scientist at the Lawson Health Research Institute. “I think for our patients, I think it’s an acknowledgement of the life that they have had.”
Hramiak also remarked that for those that work in the field of diabetes and for diabetic educators, events such as this also act as a great motivator. “Overall, it’s a celebration of their efforts and ours in helping them live with Type I diabetes.”
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