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Treatment of Diabetes, 1947

At night, each child was given one sweet, but not if they were diabetic!

In 1947 there was no National Health Service. I was 11 years old and began to show classic symptoms of diabetes. One day, when my father returned home from his 5.00 pm to 8.00 am shift at the colliery, he saw a trail of white, dried spots of urine coming from the outside lavatory. The doctor was summoned, as my father paid a weekly charge for his services, and I was taken to the RVI in an ambulance. I remained in hospital for three weeks, until I could inject myself with doses of insulin. At night, each child was given one sweet, but not if they were diabetic.

When I returned home I had to obtain a prescription for my insulin from the GP and all the drugs had to be paid for at the chemist shop. Sometimes I had to wait until my father came home from work because my mother had no money. In 1947 if you had no money to pay for your drugs then you would probably have died.

In order to determine the dosage of insulin I required, a solution of drops of water, urine and Benedict’s Solution were heated over the gas in a test tube and, the colour of the resultant mixture determined how much sugar was in my system. Over the years I began to use tablets, testing sticks and now electronic apparatus to replace those test tubes.

I was an able and enthusiastic pupil, but I had missed so much time at school, due to my illness, I missed out on educational opportunities. The teachers did not, at that time, understand the illness and were not always sympathetic to my condition. My uncle asked if I might leave the classroom five minutes earlier to catch the bus to take me home at lunchtime for my insulin injection. Permission was refused and so I had to run home. One day I collapsed on the road and Mrs Worth had to take me home.

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