Sunday, March 4, 2012

Slice of Life #4 - The Story of Insulin

Maria, another slicer, had mentioned in a comment on my post yesterday, about how while we love reading about medieval times and tales of ancient Rome she's, so thankful to live in this day and age. And how modern science and medicine has blessed us.

It's so true! For me I am forever grateful to modern science and specifically the invention of insulin, considering my daughter's dependency on insulin as result of her diabetes. It reminded me of a story of when insulin was invented in the 1920's. Up until then a diagnosis of diabetes was a death sentence. A common treatment was restricting sugar or carbohydrate intake, essentially starvation, but that would only last so long. So children with diabetes eventually were in the hospital and very, very sick or in a comas from diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Parents were basically waiting around for their children to die. At first they tested insulin on dogs with diabetes and saw remarkable results, the dogs recovered, symptoms relieved. Before giving the insulin to human patients, which at that time was from animals and from what I read was a merky brown substance and injected with long thick needles (Ugghhhh), Frederick Banting and Charles Best injected themselves, even though they didn't have diabetes, to make sure it was relatively safe. They ended up feeling dizzy and light headed, but no serious side effects. The first person with diabetes to be given insulin as a trial was Leonard Thompson, he improved dramatically and the news spread. Banting and his boss Macleod recieved the Nobel Prize in 1923 for their work.

One of the most inspiring stories to me, however, is one my husband came across, that we had read not long after Elisabeth's diagnosis and I can only imagine this scene from a parent's perspective. So in the very early days after the insulin was created, the doctors would go to hospital wards, children's wings. I imagine the parents whose children were so very weak from basically starving to death or in a coma from DKA and were basically waiting for their children to die. Well the doctors would go from bed to bed, injecting the insulin into each child. By the time the doctors got to the last bed, the children in the first beds had woken up from their comas. That is just AMAZING to me! They essentially had risen these children from the dead! I picture parents fainting and hugs through many tears.

I leave you with this. In a bit of reading I did looking for that story again, which I couldn't find, but I found this - twenty five words Frederick Banting had written on October 30th, 1920 after he begun his initial research, that led to his miracle break through. This is like poetry to me...

Diabetus
Ligate pancreatic ducts of dogs. Keep
dogs alive till acini degenerate
leaving Islets. Try to isolate the
internal secretion of these to relieve
glycosurea.

I don't get it all, but knowing what these twenty five words led to, makes them precious to me.

19 comments:

  1. I don't know if this is true now, but as a Canadian kid growing up in the 80s, we learned about Banting and Best because they were Canadian. Reading this took me back to first reading and learning about the story. Thanks for writing; a good reminder that while we often question progress and focus on its downsides, it has brought us many great things. Thank goodness your daughter didn't have to go through what kids at that time did.

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    1. Yes, they were Canadian! I apologize for leaving that detail out - ha ha. Yeah, I'm so thankful too. I read about the initial twice daily shots and the welts they left, but it save their lives. I just can't imagine, I can't.

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  2. What a wonderful story. I can't imagine having a child with diabetes...it just doesn't seem fair. I love how you quickly put yourself in the shoes of those parents long ago. To think that one shot could awake a child and set them on a new path is amazing. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. No, it doesn't. You wonder why and how. Is there something I did or didn't do and you know that's futile. Eventually you come to a place where you have a new normal. I can say I'm there now and she's doing great. She's so brave and I'm so proud of her! :)

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  3. I often marvel and wonder how things we take for granted today were discovered in the first place. Thankfully there were inquiring minds.

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  4. This was so interesting to read, Jennifer. Your writing has such a lovely flow. Love the snippet at the end. It looks and feels like poetry to me too. :)

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  5. This piece had so much indormation and new learning for me but held my interest so well. It was the perfect flow/mix of cool facts and their impact today on you. The facts were told with the heart. Very cool I wonder response.

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  6. Jen,
    Sometimes we forget how lucky we are living today. There are so many modern conveniences that we just take for granted. I learned a lot about insulin that I did not know reading your piece. I guess I haven't thought about the history of it, but have always been thankful it has been around to help loved ones.
    Cathy

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  7. Thanks for sharing some history, with some application! I have a hard time reading historical documentation, but when there is real-world, today, relevance, I get completely sucked in. The emotional connection for you was evident as well, and being a people-person, that wins me over as well. I wish all of history could be read so easily! :)

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  8. I have had students with diabetes (middle school) and marvel at the independence they have in managing their diabetes. They've gone on long trips with me and with just support through touching base, they're just fine. What a miracle those two men gave us. I understand your gratitude and love that you placed those words poetically, like a poster on a wall!

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    1. Funny thing ~ I found them just like that! I think they were in his notes written like that is my guess.

      It is pretty amazing how independent they become. My daughter can already give herself her own shots, at the age of 7!

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  9. This is one very thought provoking post. I connected to it on many levels - as a teacher, as a mother and as a mother of a biomedical researcher. I have at least one child who is dependent on insulin every year - sometimes more - and it would be great to read about this from an invention and a human interest perspective. As a mom, I am grateful every day for my chlidren's health in the age of vaccines, antibiotics and other medical breakthroughs. As the mom of a biomedical researcher, I am proud that the future will be brighter because of what they do.

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  10. Wow! I had no idea that insulin was invented so recently. Thank you for sharing this interesting piece.

    P.S. I just found my Girlfriend token from NCTE!

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    1. Ha - cool! It does say dinner or a night out!

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  11. Wow. Thank you, Jen. I have often thought about medical history in terms of other illnesses, but never about insulin. I loved the line about the doctors raising children from the dead! I can just imagine the cheers and shouts. Amazing.

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  12. Wow...sweet friend...it's great to see you here and read your posts. I love this post--especially the ending. Miss you and can't wait to read more from you in the upcoming days. Makes me feel like I'm a little closer to my friend in Chicago..... :)

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  13. This is an amazing story. I too am grateful for the thought of isolating the insulin from other resources to give to those who have problems making it on their own. Three of my grandparents had diabetes and required insulin to keep their blood sugars in check. However, I have memories as well when my grandma went into insulin shock...

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  14. How frightening for you and your husband to have heard that diagnosis. Your relief that with care and the fact she was born now she can have a life of promise. My heart goes out to all the families that battle ilness.

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