Prior to the discovery of insulin there were several treatments for diabetes. Those treatments included bleeding, opium, starvation, exercise and diets. A diet low in carbs and high in fat and protein was sometimes used. Without the availability of insulin these treatments extended the lives of diabetics by approximately one year.
Insulin was discovered in 1921 and became available to the general public in 1923. The first insulin was taken from pigs and cows by a Canadian team. Thank God for the Canadians!!! The insulin was impure and large doses were necessary and they frequently caused abscesses at the injection site. At first the beef/pork insulin was short acting and multiple doses were needed each day. In the 1930’s, the first long acting insulin, Protamine Zinc, was introduced. In the 1940’s NPH insulin became available and it is still widely used today. In that same decade the first standardized insulin syringe was introduced. It was made of glass. The needles used with that syringe had to be sterilized by boiling. The needles had to also be sharpened frequently. My family lived in an area where all the residents had their own wells. Our water was “hard water” and contained material that caused a deposit to form on my needles when they were boiled. Each morning before the syringe and needle were boiled my Father took a whet stone and rubbed the needle against it to remove the deposit. If there was some of the deposit still left on the needle then it became very difficult to push the needle into my flesh. I got used to that after awhile. I found injections on my arms more painful and we usually used my upper legs. I was supposed to inject the insulin into muscle so my abdomen was never used in my childhood. I started giving myself my own injections when I was 12.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…er…the farm, things were shaping up very nicely. My Father built a small barn all by himself and there were stalls for our cows and our horse. The doors were left open so the livestock could use the shelter during bad weather and at night. Two calves were born each year and after they were fattened we would take them to the stockyard and sell them. The extra cash was much needed. My Father hitched the horse to a plow and plowed the 2.5 acre garden space every spring. It was very hard work for one horse and so Daddy tried renting a second horse. The rental was more than we culd afford. A man offered him a mule, cheap. We soon found out why it was a low cost deal. The horse and mule were both hitched to the plow. The mule had no intention to pull that plow. The horse would move and the mule just stood there. My Father had worked on farms all his life and he approached the mule and spoke in soft tones. He fed the mule some corn and took a special comb used to groom livestock and combed the mule on his sides and back. It must have felt great. The mule was very cooperative and the plowing was done in no time. HEEEE HAWWWW! There was one time years later that we did rent a horse and I approached the horse and tried to pet him. The horse reached down and grabbed a chunk of my abdomen and I made a motion and screamed and the horse let go and ran away. That horse could have pulled a big part of my abdomen off my body. I was lucky to have only a few heavy teeth marks, not much bleeding. I would rather have injections any day!! Another time Daddy had the horse hitched for some very light plowing. The horse keeled over in the middle of the garden and died. Daddy dug a very large pit beside the horse and rolled the horse into the pit. We never had a horse after that. Later on that year Daddy bought a used tractor. We had a mowing machine and a hay rake that we hooked to the tractor and I drove the tractor and Daddy controlled the machines while riding them behind me. We mowed the fields and made hay for the livestock. We raked the hay and stacked it ready for feeding the cows during the winter.
I was not a very good student during my first few years of elementary school. I made a lot of C’s but I never failed a grade. I studied hard and my Mother was a great help. She was a good tutor. She was the valedictorian when she graduated from her high school. Impressed? Well, I guess I should tell you that there were only four students in the senior class that year. She attended a very small school house in the area where she was raised. When she started school it was a one room schoolhouse and one teacher taught grades 1-12.
I had hypos during the night about once per week and then ran high blood sugar during the day. All those carbs caused those highs. Mother was afraid I would have a hypo while at school. She approached the teacher at the beginning of each year and explained my condition and why I should not exercise like the other kids. She convinced Dr. Davis to write an excuse before school started each fall. I never participated in play period or gymnastics of any kind . I sat and watched the other kids. Mother would not have it any other way. My classmates knew I was different and they ignored me but never made fun of me. I tried to make friends but I was never very successful. I became very withdrawn and terribly shy. I hated my diabetes because I knew it was responsible for my misery in school. I never blamed my Mother because I also feared having a hypo in school. Mother always brought me out of my hypos at night by feeding me water containing a lot of sugar. I knew there would not be anyone to do that for me at school so I sat and watched the kids play and felt comfort in knowing I would not have a hypo. I would have been so embarassed if I had had a hypo at school.
By the time I reached fourth grade I started making better grades. In the sixth and seventh grades I made several A 's and B’s, not many C’s. I was always the best in my class at spelling. I took great pride in my ability to spell complicated words. I do make typos though. You may spot a few. When I reached high school my Mother still wanted me be excused from gym classes. I was rather good at basketball, at home. Daddy nailed a basketball hoop to the side of the corn crib and I became very good at making baskets. I played and worked hard at home but always under Mother’s watchful eyes. I still had that fear of having hypos in high school so I agreed to not participate in gym classes. I wish now that I had rebelled and taken gym. I was still withdrawn and shy in high school. I made a few friends though and my grades were very good. I graduated number 13 in high school in June, 1957. My math teacher in my senior year found that I was not intending to go to college. She begged me to go. I considered it but I knew my parents would not approve.
Some of the material in this chapter is found in the article contained on the URL listed here: Scroll down below the ads on the opening page to find the pertinent material.
“The Story Of Insulin” is an excellent prsentation and should be heard by all diabetics who use insulin. Here is that story in video form: