By Della Hughes-Carter
Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two part feature. Be sure to pick up the September CAWLM for part 2.
Lyle Adkins was feeling fatigued, had extreme thirst and was always hungry, but what concerned him the most were episodes of blurred vision. Lyle had just turned 54 and had never been sick before, so he decide to call his doctor.
The year was 1954, and healthcare was very different than it is now. Appointments were often lengthy and doctors visited their patient’s homes. When he arrived at Lyle’s home, the doctor asked Lyle to provide a urine sample. The doctor then poured the urine into a test tube and attached a wire handle. Together, the doctor and Lyle held the test tube over a flame of a Bunsen burner to evaporate the urine. What remained were white crystals on the sides of the test tube. This was all the evidence the doctor needed. He told Lyle, “that is sugar and you have diabetes.”
Lyle was given a reusable syringe with a fairly long, sharp needle and insulin in a bottle. He was taught how to clean the needle with alcohol and a cotton ball, and was instructed to give himself a shot in the abdomen every day. Of course, in 1954, there was little advancement in the management of diabetes and no way to check daily blood glucose levels. Insulin had only been discovered in the early 1920s, and there were no oral anti-diabetic medications. Despite this, Lyle lived to the amazing age of 90 because he managed his diabetes well.
Lyle Adkins was my grandfather.
Diabetes is an illness that causes kidney failure, blindness, amputations, heart disease and stroke. Nearly 10 percent of all Americans, including our children, have this disease and that number is increasing. For those 65 years and older, the prevalence rate is 25 percent.
Healthcare in the United States has been focused on treating illness for too long, but the initiative is changing. This series of articles will discuss ways for you to prevent illness and promote quality health. Next month we will discuss the specifics of diabetes, how to prevent some forms of diabetes and ways for those with the disease to live a long life without complications.