Medal winners are fine role models for people with diabetes
10 June 2013
Margaret Hart and Russell Leek are proof positive that diabetes need not be a bar to living a full and active life.
Each of them has lived with the condition for more than 50
years, earning them a medal from the charity Diabetes UK.
Margaret, 67, from Southend was diagnosed with the disease after
developing an unquenchable thirst when she was just 15. She soon
learned how to inject herself with insulin and now, 52 years later,
she is still giving herself a jab five times a day.
She said: "The nurses back then were very strict and it was no
good being namby-pamby. I just practised on an orange and got on
Scrupulous about hand washing and diet, she is always upfront
about her condition. In the last two years, she has developed
coeliac disease, a common associated condition of diabetes, which
means she must keep to a gluten-free diet as well as a diet for
diabetes. But she refuses to let it get her down and has remained
working in reprographics at Futures Community College for the last
37 years. She is also a keen cyclist and is currently in training
for walking her next half marathon.
She has also participated in a diabetes clinical trial at
Southend in conjunction with St Mary's Hospital, Paddington and
says: "I will support the hospital in any way I can as they have
"It is incredible how many advances have been made in
diabetes over the last 50 years. I now see the doctor more often
and understand the condition far more.
"I have been incredibly lucky with my health. Even if they found
a cure for diabetes tomorrow I don't suppose it would make a huge
difference to my life - I would not go and pig out on chocolate. It
is a lifetime commitment to diet and I have never felt
Her advice to newly-diagnosed diabetic: "Don't think it is the
end of the world."
Russell, 59, from Ashingdon, was first diagnosed a few months
before his fourth birthday after his mother caught him drinking
from the bathroom tap.
He said: "She had noticed I was very drowsy and was doing odd
things but was totally ignorant then about diabetes.
"I was very fortunate in having a brilliant doctor, who used to
call round at our home. He was a wonderful man and I owe him my
Consultant diabetologist, Dr Philip Kelly, said: "To manage
one's diabetes so well for 50 years is tremendous. The attention to
their health and condition they must have given during that time to
keep living so well is incredible. At the time they were diagnosed
advanced complications were common and life expectancy was often
lowered. They would have been prescribed a diet, a lifestyle and a
routine that few of us could adhere to for a day and they have
adapted their lifestyle to the changing demands of life amazingly
well. Their knowledge of their condition is excellent and they are
superb role models for people with diabetes of any type diagnosed
at any age.
"We are extremely grateful to have two patients who have managed
their diabetes so well for so long who can teach us how to help
other patients manage their diabetes."