Monday 14 November 2011

World Diabetes Day 2011 ~ Open A Book

Open a book. Point to a page. Free write for 10-15 minutes on that word or passage.

Today has been an emotional day. It is World Diabetes Day, and the anniversary of Frederick Banting's birthday and I have found myself thinking about diabetes constantly today. Yes, diabetes occupies my thoughts for a large portion of every day, but today it's different. Today my focus has strayed from the typical worry about Dylan's blood sugar levels and carbohydrate intake, to an overwhelming feeling of gratitude towards the  man who discovered insulin, and thus subsequently saved my son's life. Without Banting, Dylan would not be alive today. Period.

So I thought it fitting to choose a passage from a book about Banting for today's prompt. I am currently reading "Breakthrough; Elizabeth Hughes, the Discovery of Insulin, and the Making of a Medical Miracle" by Thea Cooper and Arthur Ainsburg. I am only about halfway through the book, but I flipped ahead and picked a passage, that I believe is perfect, for today's post. The passage describes the conversation between Banting and Hughes the first time they meet. Banting is performing a basic medical examination of Hughes, then 14 years old, and she, in her precocious manner, is asking him more questions than he is of her. Approximately halfway down page 197, the text reads, 

Banting dragged the chair from the desk over to the examination table. He turned it around and sat on it backward, resting his arms over the back. He looked seriously at Elizabeth.
"How do you feel generally?"
"Besides that."
"How long have you felt this way?"
"Three years and nine months." Elizabeth turned serious for the first time during the examination.
"You look sick but you don't act sick. Why is that?"
Elizabeth took a deep breath and leveled her gaze at the young doctor. 
"Dr. Banting, have you ever known something, just known it in your bones? And even though everything may seem to point to the opposite, you still know it's true?"
"As a matter of fact I have."
"Well I know that I am going to get better. Do you believe me?"
"Yes, I do."
Banting nodded solemnly.
"Then you're the first one ever."

A mere minute or two later, Banting proceeded to inject Elizabeth with her first ever insulin shot. The first of over 42,000 such shots she would receive in her lifetime; more than anyone on earth at that time.

The honesty and simplicity of this passage speaks to me. Not only as a mother of a child with type 1 diabetes, but as a human being, because against all odds, even after living on a starvation diet for over three and a half years, Elizabeth believed in her recovery. And, perhaps equally important, so did Banting. There was never a doubt in either of their minds that the newly discovered treatment would work. They had so much hope, and it paid off.

Diabetes is a scary disease. It can be terrifying at times, but I can't help but think about Elizabeth and how she must have felt in those first few days of treatment, as she rapidly gained weight and began to eat foods forbidden for the previous three and a half years. She believed in Banting. So did her parents, and soon after so did the thousands of other children and adults living with diabetes.

Fast forward to today, over ninety years later. We are still using the same basic treatment for type 1 diabetes and it's still working. Still saving lives. Every single day.

Thank you Frederick Banting, and happy birthday.

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