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January 30th, 2013
Ed: While Scott King remains absent on family matters, we’re very pleased to introduce Will Hall, a higher education development officer who has lived with type 1 diabetes for 25 years, and who has volunteered to share his personal experience in occasional guest postings. The Hanuman website and this blog tend to be dominated by science, and sometimes by the politics of diabetes research, but Will’s story reminds us of the ultimate goal of our work: making lives better. Scott will be back online soon with more Islet Sheet news.
I would like to start by acknowledging Scott King and his team for the great work they are doing to find a cure for diabetes—and, more important, by sending good thoughts to Scott’s sister and their entire family during this challenging time.
When Scott asked if I would be interested in guest-writing for The Sheet, I quickly agreed. I’ve thought a lot about how living with diabetes has affected me, and I found The Sheet to be a good source of information. Scott’s belief in his quest is inspiring, And it doesn’t hurt that his research seems to find success at every level. Over the years, I have been disappointed by the lack of legitimate advances in treating diabetes, but the Islet Sheet has successfully transitioned from theory to practice, and Scott’s blog has allowed me to feel like an insider who gets to come along on this exciting journey.
Now I’m curious about who else reads The Sheet and is intrigued by Scott’s work. Are most of my fellow readers diabetics, relatives or friends of diabetics, researchers, or other people I haven’t even thought of yet? Whoever you are, I hope this post will provide an opportunity to offer comments about your experiences and shed some light on why this research is important to you.
First, a little background. I grew up in a small town about 30 minutes outside Boston. My suburban New England upbringing was fairly typical—I had two hard-working and loving parents, a brother, four dogs (not all at once), a lot of wicked good friends, and a great public school education. I played soccer and tennis, and loved watching the Sox, the Celtics, and especially WWF wrestling. (C’mon—Hulk Hogan, Ricky the Dragon Steamboat, the Iron Sheik, Brutus the Barber Beefcake … who’s with me?) Fun times growing up in the ’80s, for sure.
Then, one evening in January 1987 when I was eleven, I came down with what seemed like a normal virus. I felt worn down and had a bit of a head cold. Not too unusual, or so it seemed. I went to bed early that night but woke up a few hours later, feeling incredibly thirsty. I proceeded to wake up every hour for the rest of the night. Each time, I would pee, then chug a ton of soda or whatever I could find in the fridge, and go back to bed.
In the morning, my dad asked why I had been up so much during the night. I didn’t realize he’d noticed. I told him I was wicked thirsty but kept peeing. Fortunately, my dad is a bright guy and immediately said, “That’s not normal. Let’s pay the doctor a visit.”
A few hours later we were at my pediatrician’s office, who also happened to specialize in juvenile diabetes (as it was then called)—lucky for me, as I discovered later. Mostly it seemed like any other trip to the doc, but things changed when he returned with the results of my bloodwork. He said something to the effect of, “We need to get Will to the hospital. He has diabetes.” I had no idea what diabetes meant, so I wasn’t scared at first. Remember, I was eleven and pondering more important things, like when could I test out my new skateboard or play with my friends? But the next thing I noticed, my dad dropped his head and let out a sigh. Shortly thereafter we were en route to the local hospital.
My memory of that part is a little vague. I do recall being instructed to get into a hospital gown shortly after arriving. That was when my parents saw how much weight I had lost. My already thin frame had taken a serious beating from the diabetes, and my dad later confided that I looked like the pictures of concentration camp victims.
I also recall the nurses working vigorously to insert an IV into my arm, but because I was so thin they weren’t having any luck. As they grew more and more frustrated, my pediatrician luckily showed up and easily inserted the IV. For the rest of the day I endured frequent blood sugar tests, was introduced to insulin, and practiced injections in oranges—my first taste of growing up diabetic.
So went day one of my life with type 1. For the next 25 years I lived as well I could while listening to a lot of people talk about how a cure would be found. But until I learned about Scott’s research, I didn’t have much reason for hope. Now I believe we have legitimate reason for optimism.
Do you remember the day you or your friend or family member was diagnosed? Please feel free to share your story in a comment. After all, improving the lives of people who suffer from diabetes is what Scott’s life work is all about. And I’m sure that he and his colleagues would enjoy hearing more about people who could be helped by the Islet Sheet. I certainly would.
I have more stories to share, and you’ll be hearing from me again. I’ll also respond to your feedback. If you can, please support Hanuman Medical Foundation, which supports this great research. Thanks, and happy 2013!
Will Hall, San Francisco