Winning at diabetes
Writer H.G. Wells, often called the father of science fiction, developed type 2 diabetes in his early sixties. He became a patient of the well-known physician R. D. Lawrence, that wanted to set up a diabetes in-patient department at King’s College Hospital. Wells used his literary skills to write an appeal for donations in The Times which received a massive response. The money raised funded Lawrence’s diabetes department. The two came together again in 1934 when they created the Diabetic Association through public donations following a second newspaper appeal. The organization got renamed twice, first as the British Diabetes Association, and in 2000 as Diabetes UK. It’s today one of the world’s leading charities for diabetes research and education.
Diabetes UK awards diabetic medals to people who have lived with the disease for many years. The medal at the fifty-year mark takes its name after Alan Nabarro that developed type 1 diabetes in the early 1920s when insulin treatment was new. At this point, most children didn’t live more than a year after diagnosis and died in agony. Nabarro’s uncle, a pathologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, had heard of the new treatment discovered in Canada and started a telegram correspondence with the researchers. They had to wait until 1923 for insulin supplies to become available. During that time, Nabarro survived on a starvation diet of spinach and cream once a week. Once given insulin, he took a keen interest in managing his condition. At the age of 21, he joined the Diabetic Association.
Nabarro spent the rest of his life promoting awareness about diabetes. In 1968 he received an OBE for his work with young people in London. He also became the first British person to receive the Joslin Medal for living fifty years with diabetes. At the time, he was one of the longest-living persons with diabetes, so after his death, the Diabetic Association honored his memory with the Alan Nabarro Medal. Thanks to the discovery of insulin, type 1 diabetes is no longer the death sentence it used to be. Many of us can look forward to a long life with the disease. Some of us might even live long enough to get a medal for it.