My diabetes diagnosis was in 1945, a few days after my sixth birthday. At the time, there was very little known about diabetes. The only rule my parents had to follow was to not let me have sugar, otherwise I could eat anything else I wanted. Other than that, and taking one shot of insulin a day, there was very little change in my life. There were no devices for testing and no information about carbs or their effect on blood sugar. It seems almost a miracle that I’ve now lived for 67 years and have had no diabetes related complications except for some mild nerve damage.
There are many other T1D’s like me in the US who have lived with their diabetes for 50 years, or more. Many of them have received the 50 year medal from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. A study is being done on the medalists to see if any factors can be found that have allowed them to live so long without any serious complications. I participated in the study in 2009.
Despite my having good diabetes health, there was so much I did not know about T1D. My doctors in the early years knew very little. In July 2006, I watched an episode of the dLife TV program. They mentioned that there was a dLife website that offered support and I joined that day.
On the site there were many people of all types taking part in interesting discussions. So much of the information there was new to me, and it was easy to see that I found the right place. How could I have gone 61 years without all the things I learned on dLife?
Several other websites were also very helpful and I joined many. I shared my knowledge with my new online friends and they shared their knowledge with me. Some members onDiabetes Daily convinced me to use an insulin pump and I started pumping in June, 2007. My blood sugar is much more stable now and I have fewer highs and lows. I have not needed assistance with a hypoglycemic episode since July, 2007. I feel that the education I received from the diabetes online community (DOC) was so good for me. In turn, I have helped many fellow diabetics on several diabetes websites and that has made me feel good.
I joined Facebook in December of 2010. There seemed to be an endless number of groups there that were focused on diabetes. I am currently a member of about 30 of those groups and I truly enjoy assisting the more uninformed diabetics and their families. It is so easy to see how valuable it is to all participants in the online discussions. Many of them are getting too little advice from their doctors, but they receive many replies to their questions online. Hundreds of parents of young type 1 children were impressed by my longevity and good health. They tell me that I have given them inspiration and hope for the futures of their children. My wife and I will be attending the Friends For Life (FFL) conference in Orlando, FL, in July. It is an international conference for type 1 diabetics, but the emphasis is on the type 1 children and their families. There I will meet many of my online friends.
Communication with my online friends and the research I have done has given me experience and knowledge about T1D. I’ve written a book about my life with diabetes and have given talks to two local diabetes support groups in my area of New York. It would be great if I had the opportunity to become a motivational speaker and visit many areas in the US.
It is a dream of millions of diabetics to have long, healthy, and productive lives. The DOC provides the support, education, and incentive to make this possible.
By Richard Vaughn