A BRECHIN woman has become one of only a few hundred people to receive a Nabarro Medal, having lived with diabetes for 50 years.
Caroline James, who is one of only about 400 people in the world with a rare form of diabetes, was presented with the Nabarro Medal on Friday at Ninewells Hospital.
Diabetes UK Supporter Services awards the Alan Nabarro Medal to people who have lived with diabetes for 50 years.
Diabetes is a common life-long health condition where the amount of glucose in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly due to a lack of insulin or because of the resistance to effect of insulin.
There are 2.8 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK and approximately 20,000 living with diabetes in Tayside.
Mrs James (50) was diagnosed with diabetes when she was only 33 days old and the routine monitoring of her blood glucose levels and insulin injections quickly became part of her daily life.
Mrs James said: “As I have always just got on with my life despite having diabetes and I am pleased to accept this award which recognises that I have had diabetes for 50 years.
“I was started on insulin because I was miss diagnosed as having type one diabetes and was on insulin all my life until I was found in 2006 by a researcher who was looking into the cause of diabetes at such a young age.
“Dr Ewan Pearson telephoned me out of the blue in December 2006 and said to me that there was a new diabetes known as monogenic neonatal diabetes which is only found in people who were diagnosed as diabetic when they were under six months old and he wondered if I would be prepared to be tested for this.
“I accepted this offer and got the tests done. Five months later the test results came back as positive.
“The new treatment for this was to be put on Glipizide, which is used in type 2 diabetes to try and get me off of insulin.
“Over a period of 23 months I was transferred onto Glipizide and became insulin free.
“However, back in December last year I was not well and the Glipizide stopped working as it should have done and I was put back onto the insulin on top of the Glipizide.
“Since I was put on the Glipizide I have felt a lot better. Before I was put on it my diabetes was never under control but now it has been under control more than it has ever been.
“Only about 400 people worldwide have this condition and there are a lot of people who have this condition but do not know it.
“I am very grateful for the support I have received from all the health care professionals who have been involved with my care, especially Dr Pearson.”
This award recognises the fact that Caroline has lived with diabetes literally all of her life.
She has lived through a time of major change in how diabetes is managed.
Fifty years ago the insulin that was required to treat diabetes was given in glass syringes that were boiled between uses; now people can use pump devices that continuously administer insulin, and glucose sensors that give a constant read out of blood sugar levels.
However, even today, diabetes remains a major challenge for people to manage.
Consultant physician, Dr Ewan Pearson, said: “For anyone to have lived with diabetes for 50 years is a major achievement and this award is greatly deserved.
“In Caroline’s case, there has been a late twist in the story, in that we recently found her to have a very rare genetic cause for her diabetes, which is why she developed diabetes soon after birth.
“Knowing this has allowed Caroline to treat her diabetes with specific tablets and stop her insulin treatment for the last couple of years.
“Whilst this cannot help the majority of patients with type 1 diabetes, it does highlight how we are making progress in our understanding and treatment of diabetes.”
If you were diagnosed with diabetes before the age of six months contact your diabetes team as you may be eligible for genetic testing to find out if you have monogenic neonatal diabetes.