|'Insulin is your friend...'
Not So Long Ago
by Mary-Jo Murphy
When a doctor makes the choice to prescribe insulin for your diabetes, you may feel like a failure, as if you are being punished. You are shocked at the prospect of self-injection and try to negotiate your way out of the process. "Can't I try another pill? I promise to lose weight, exercise, give up sweets forever?"
Nov. 14th is the birthday of Frederick Banting, and also the day we celebrate World Diabetes Day. Most of us have forgotten or are unaware of how it was not so long ago, before the discovery of insulin. In 1922, Dr. Banting, along with his 22 year-old assistant, Charles Best, a medical student, first conceived of the idea that led to the discovery of insulin. Let us consider what life was like before the magic extract.
In those days, children dying from diabetes were kept in large wards, often with 50 or more. Most were comatose. Families grieved and waited for their deaths. On January 11, 1922, one of those children, 14-year-old Leonard Thompson, lay dying at Toronto General Hospital. That day, Leonard was the first human to be given an injection of insulin. Further injections were canceled, because the extract was so impure
that the boy suffered a severe allergic reaction. But during the next ten days James Collip, a biochemist, worked night and day to improve and purify the ox-pancreas extract. A second dose was given on the 23rd. This was completely successful. The boy woke up.
Later, in one of the medicine's most dramatic moments, Banting, Best and Collip, went from bed to bed in an entire diabetic ward injecting each patient with the new purified extract. Before they had reached the last dying child, the first few were awakening from their comas, to the joy of their families. Insulin was hardly a punishment. It restored life.
Over the years, insulin, which originally came from cows and pigs was purified and zinc was added to it to lengthen its effect. In 1978, Genentech produced synthetic insulin using recombinant DNA techniques.
As a Diabetes Educator, I seldom found anyone enthusiastic about the prospect of taking the miracle potent. The truth is, I would have found it distinctly odd if a client enthusiastically embraced the prospect as, "The best news ever."
Diabetes management is a complicated endeavor, which involves many lifestyle changes. Banting and Best's discovery is only part of the management equation. But insulin is our friend and on this month we might consider the miracle of its discovery and the lives that are still being saved.
The theme of the World Diabetes Day
Campaign from 2009-2013 is Diabetes Education and Prevention. It's a call worldwide for the public to understand the impact of diabetes and know how to prevent it from happening, and if it does, how to delay the complications.
American Diabetes Month was November. Considering how common the diagnosis of diabetes is, the symptoms are not as well-recognized as they should be. Individuals who would be alarmed at a change in a mole or a lump in a breast, often overlook the dramatic Warning Signs of diabetes in themselves and their children. They include:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Increased hunger
- Weight loss
- Lack of interest of concentration
- Blurred vision
- Vomiting and stomach pain, which is often mistaken for the flu
Busy November is also the Great American Smokeout Month and Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
Be thankful for prevention and the role you can play in it.
- Mary-Jo Murphy, MS, RN, CDE,
Health and Diabetes Educator,