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Born on the family dairy farm in New York, the second of five children, Carolyn Gridley was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after her grandmother noticed sugar crystals on her diaper that attracted the bees and flies around the farm.
That was in July of 1950, when she was two years old. She's had diabetes now for 57 years.
For her first thirty years with diabetes, Carolyn took regular insulin and NPH once a day. She ate meals on a rigid schedule; breakfast at seven, lunch at noon, and dinner at 5:30 or six. There were no glucose meters, so she did the old urine tests to check for sugar.
She recalls having to boil her needles and remembers how they hurt because of the burrs they developed after repeated usage. She loves the new syringes because their needles "are so sharp and slick." After nursing school, at about age 35 or 40, she first began using a glucose meter. She still works as a nurse, making health calls for a hospice organization.
Beginning during college, Carolyn went for ten years without seeing a specialist or checking her A1c's. Because she was so busy, she just ordered supplies through her regular doctor. Her current insulin regimen is four to seven units of Humalog for each meal and fifteen units of Lantus at bedtime.
She tests two or three times a day, and her blood sugar is dismayingly erratic - in the morning it can be anywhere from 100 to 200. Her A1cs go up and down as well - her last one was 8.1 percent, which she found very frustrating. But it's been 57 years, and still she's had no complications.
Growing up on the farm, Carolyn learned healthful eating from her mother and the 4H club. Processed snacks were unheard of during her childhood, and she avoids them to this day. Her daily diet is limited to 2100 calories. Having counted calories for fifty years, she doesn't like the idea of switching to counting carbs.
Exercise was a big part of life during her youth on the farm, but it's harder to fit exercise into her life now that she's so busy. She manages to walk and swim fairly often nevertheless.
About six years ago, Carolyn went to Joslin Clinic in Boston to receive her medal for living fifty years with diabetes. It was a pleasure to meet all the other long-timers and hear their stories. One elderly lady had just gotten a pump and just loved it, but Carolyn isn't inclined to get one because she worries about malfunctions.
Carolyn has had a long and healthy life with diabetes. To newbies, she advises following medical advice and practicing portion control.
Jul 11, 2007