Ryan Shafer is a 44-year-old professional bowler from Elmira, New York, who was 19 when he developed type 1 diabetes. For a couple of weeks, he experienced the usual symptoms of weight loss, lethargy, extreme thirst, and frequent urination, as well as vision problems. "Being that age," he says, "I was afraid to go to the doctor. I thought it would just go away." When he finally saw his family physician and was diagnosed, he says, "I was actually relieved--not that I thought diabetes was a piece of cake, but I was glad to know what was wrong with me."
We all know of Paul and Mira Sorvino, the legendary father and daughter actors who have graced the small and big screens for decades. Paul has played such classic characters as Paulie Cicero in the film Goodfellas and Sgt. Phil Cerreta on the TV series Law & Order and is a well-known chef and singer, while Mira has starred in over 30 movies and won an Academy Award in 1995 for her role as Linda Ash in Mighty Aphrodite.
Phil Southerland was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was seven months old. Now 28, he has always taken an aggressive approach to managing the disease. He recalls, "My mom scared the daylights out of me when I was six years old by letting me know about the severe complications of diabetes if you don't take care of it. That has motivated me to never let those complications fall on my shoulders."
Until the twentieth century, type 1 diabetes was a fatal disease. Once we came to understand how insulin works in the body, however, everything changed. The discovery of the role of insulin was a group effort by people who didn't know each other, but built on each others' work. In 1869, a German medical student named Paul Langerhans figured out the regulatory role of insulin in the mammal body. In honor of his efforts, his name was given to the islets of Langerhans, where insulin is synthesized within the beta cells of the pancreas. Other Europeans and North Americans made important advancements right up until January 23, 1922, when a 14-year-old boy who was dying of diabetes at Toronto General Hospital was given the first successful injection of cow insulin.
Gale Fullerton is a 65-year-old Californian who has the distinction of being a Joslin 50-Year medal winner. Elliott P. Joslin, M.D., knew that good self-management was the key to minimizing long-term diabetes complications, and the medal program was designed as an incentive for those committed to good diabetes care. In 1970, Joslin Diabetes Center expanded the program and began awarding a 50-year bronze medal. They presented the first 75-year medal in 1996.
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