50 Courageous Years as a Diabetic Patient

I would like to thank the KER Unit for allowing Karen and me to be a part of the Diabetes Research Advisory Group for the last eight years.  I feel it has been a rewarding part of the relationship between the doctors and my care at Mayo Clinic.  I would also like to take this time to give a huge and sincere thank you to all the diabetic caregivers and family support we need for our chronic condition.

I have been Type 1 diabetic since age 5.  I never knew life without anywhere from 2 to 6 shots a day every day.  When I started in 1959, the only way of testing the sugar in my blood was by using urine test strips.  And then the only way of knowing when it was high was when it bright green.  This meant it was already too high and I needed to do something to get it down.  On the other end of the scale, I would go into reactions so we knew it was too low and I needed some sugar to bring it back up.  I started my day with a routine of checking my test strip and then sterilizing my syringe and needle before filling the syringe with the insulin the doctor had prescribed.  My sister has told me that she never came down the stairs to breakfast until after I was given my shot, because, she did not know if it was a screaming day or a crying day and the “doctor office smell” in the kitchen was not pleasant.

As the years went by, the insulin changed every few years and with it came changes and complication for my care.  I was told once that the old insulin would build up in my system, and as I changed to the updated insulins, the old insulin reserves would let go and send me into a  reaction.  I had this happen time and time again.  I have gone through every phase of insulin infusion there was up to 2005.  From the glass syringe with stainless steel needles, using an injection device to make the needle go in much faster to disposable needles to the pen and finally to the insulin pump for the last 7 years I needed the insulin.

I never knew life without my diabetic doctors and their staff.  I have been a part of Mayo since 1962 when I was transferred here for my brain tumor and diabetic care with Dr. Allan Frethrum on 9 Plummer.  I have ridden the ambulance too many times to count and have spent time in every hospital that was and part of Mayo.  I am proud to say that without my wonderful caregivers, wife family and friends, I now am a 50 plus year survivor of diabetes, cancer and a pancreas transplant.

On August 14th 2005, I received the greatest gift from a donor from Colorado of a pancreas.  I am now 10+ years as a normal everyday human being with no restrictions as to what I can and cannot eat.  I have the best care in the world right here at home and 30 minutes away at Mayo.  I am proud to also say that I have not spent 1 day in the hospital in over 10 years.  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you caregivers and Mayo.

Submitted by Gary Hahn
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