In the 1940’s my family lived in a small four room house. There was no insulation in the walls, attic, or under the floor. We had a coal burning stove in one room that heated the family room and kitchen. The two bedrooms were closed off, and not heated. It got so cold that a small amount of water would partially freeze in the bedrooms. I was diagnosed with my “sugar diabetes” at six years of age in September,1945. After getting home from the hospital, I had to adapt to a difficult morning routine involving my urine testing, and shot of animal insulin. I had to pee in cup so my daddy could mix a few drops with some Benedict’s solution, boil the mixture on our kerosene stove, and determine my urine sugar level. There were no numbers involved, just some colors of the solution. That gave us a rough idea of my urine sugar level. My insulin dosage was determined by the urine sugar result. Daddy would put some insulin in a thick glass syringe, and take it to me for my shot. I was sitting in the family room, shivering and waiting for the shot. The room was cold because the fire in the stove was not started until daddy got up around 6 AM in the morning. It stayed cold until after breakfast. Daddy handed me a wad of cotton soaked in alcohol. I wiped an area on the top of my leg with the cold alcohol, and streams of the alcohol ran down my leg. I hated the odor and the wet, cold alcohol each morning. The needle was very long, probably three quarters of an inch. I was supposed to inject into the muscle because the insulin was not fast acting, and injecting into muscle caused the insulin to act faster. I could not inject the entire length of the needle into my leg, I was too skinny for that. I might have struck bone if I did that. There was no additional urine testing or insulin injection until then next morning. I was glad about that!!
The needles and glass syringe were kept in a glass jar of alcohol, and they were boiled twice each week. Mother would be working in the kitchen, preparing breakfast, and she kept watch on the syringe and needles while they were boiling away. Occasionally the water would boil down until it was gone. The glass syringe would then break, and pieces of glass would fly all over the kitchen. I don’t think anyone was ever hurt when that happened. Fortunately we kept a spare syringe on hand for those occasions. We had our own well in the front yard, and there were lime deposits from the underground source. Sometimes the needles would clog with the lime deposits, and daddy had to insert a fine wire through the needle to unclog it. The needled were much wider than the ones we use in modern times, which made it harder, and more painful, to push the needle into my legs. If there was a popping sound while injecting, that was because there was a “burr” on the needle as it entered my leg. The lime deposits caused that. Daddy used a whet rock to remove the burrs, but he sometimes missed one. Ouch!
I put up with that morning ritual for a few years, and then I started doing it all myself. Peeing, mixing, boiling, deciding on an appropriate amount of insulin, twisting the needle onto the tip of the syringe, loading the syringe, wiping my leg with the cold alcohol, and taking my shot. I would feel the needle to see if there was a burr, and file it off if needed. If the insulin would not load into the syringe, I knew it was clogged, so I had to take a wire and unclog before loading the syringe. I was still doing all of that for many years. Then there were disposable syringes, and a tape that could be used for urine testing. Things were getting so much better!!
Now I will fast forward to the year 1963. I was dating a young lady named Anita,19 years old, on a college campus where I was teaching. We started dating that year in early November. I was invited for a visit by her parents, after Christmas in December. I met the parents and her brother, nice family! I dined with them the first evening. There was a glass of liquid by my plate. I recognized that it was a wine glass. The liquid was clear, and I detected the odor. It was the odor of alcohol. That was white wine. I was 23 years old, and I had never tasted alcohol. My parents never drank alcohol, and my sister and I were never tempted to do so. I took a tiny sip of the white wine, and as I did, the thoughts of the odor and cold feeling of the alcohol running down my leg many years ago ran through my mind. I did not like that wine. I excused myself, and went to the kitchen. I poured the wine into the sink, and poured some water into a clean glass. I drank water with the other meals while visiting my girl friend’s family.
Another fast forward to the year 1972. I was teaching at a community college near Kingston, NY. The president of the college, George, invited several faculty members and their spouses to an early evening cookout. We were all standing in the backyard, and George handed me a small glass partially filled with brown liquid. I was told it was vodka. I could smell the alcohol, and I felt nauseous as I held the glass close to my mouth. Again, I thought about the cold alcohol and foul odor from my childhood. I pretended to take small sips while talking to George. When he went to greet another guest, I poured the vodka on the ground, and asked for some water. That was only the second time I held an alcoholic beverage in my hands. I have never had another time that I was invited to drink alcohol. I have been at bars or dinners with friends who were drinking alcohol, but I always drank water, or a diet soda. My wife and I do not drink alcohol. She does not like it either. I am pleased about that.
That childhood experience with the cold room, the cold, wet alcohol running down my leg, and the painful injections will always haunt me. I think that unpleasant memory has caused me to never like the odor or taste of alcohol.
(I found these pictures online. They are near duplicates of the equipment I used.)
Alcohol? No Thanks!