By: Scott M. King
I got a real kick out of one of the lapel buttons worn at the recent diabetes conference where the DCCT results were announced. The button stated “Joslin was right all along.” This is in reference to one of the fathers of diabetes care-Elliot P. Joslin. Way back in the 1920’s he said that normalization of blood sugars was instrumental for PWD to stay healthy. He founded one of the first diabetes teaching centers in the world-to show PWD how to do it. “It” was how to eat, exercise, and take insulin to achieve good blood sugars.
Now, 70 years later, a $300 million publicly funded study (DCCT) has proven Joslin was right. Joslin prescribed multiple injections of Regular insulin for his patients. Longer acting insulin had not yet been invented. It first came on the market in the late 1930’s and NPH was introduced in 1946. Most doctors stopped using regular insulin altogether. It was felt that administering insulin several times a day was inconvenient. Taking 1 shot of longer acting insulin per day became a standard therapy for PWD.
I developed diabetes in 1974 at the tender age of 16. My doctor put me on 1 shot of insulin a day and sent me home to start peeing on those ugly urine strips. I received no teaching and no training. Those strips always turned dark brown-which meant there was a lot of sugar in my urine. I hated those strips and what they represented—I was always guilty of not doing it right. “It” was what Joslin was teaching 70 years earlier—eating, exercise, and taking Regular insulin in an appropriate fashion.
At the same time I was struggling with the urine testing, meters were available to PWD in England and Australia, but for some reason they were kept out of this country. I’ve been told it was political, but that’s another story. Fortunately, there were some courageous doctors like Nancy Bohannon who were sneaking meters into the U.S. from England. The visual read strips had been available since the early 1960’s but were hardly ever used by PWD. But this new meter was about to change all that.
These new meters were finally available in this country and I purchased my first meter in 1981. It cost over $375 and I had to jump through hoops just to get it. I had to sell my doctor on the idea so he would write me the note and prescription required for the meter purchase. Then I tracked down the only store in Sacramento (my home town) that sold such items. At last I could test myself at home and it changed my life forever. I was the proud owner of an AMES Dextrometer. Until this meter entered my life, I had no idea how high my blood sugars really were—always in the 300-400 mg/dl range. No wonder I never had to worry about hypoglycemia!
I knew that these reading were too high and I set out to get the information I needed to make some changes. At that point I couldn’t find a doctor in Sacramento that could advise me so I turned to medical research publications. I was astounded by the wealth of material I found. So much was published on insulin dosing, low blood sugar, effects of alcohol, exercise and many other areas my doctor had never told me about. This is what eventually led me to begin this newspaper. I felt that this information needed to be translated into a readily accessible format.