Friday, January 1, 2010

The Fight to Survive: A Young Girl, Diabetes, and the Discovery of Insulin

Obviously, I'm interested in reading about Type I diabetes because of my daughter's diagnosis. We are able to keep her sugar levels under control very well and are lucky that she never tries to sneak food or do anything she shouldn't. But, oh, after reading this book, I realize I am a very, very, very lucky mother. This book follows two stories--Elizabeth Evans Hughes' personal fight with diabetes and the scientists who discovered insulin.

Elizabeth was a healthy girl in 1918 but soon was thirsty, urinating frequently, and eating like crazy. Yep, it's diabetes. But diabetes in the early 1900's led to death. Elizabeth began following a starvation diet--the only thing proven to prolong death. She ate 400-1000 calories per day, instead of the 2,000 calories most young girls were eating. She grew so weak that she couldn't go to school or socialize with her parents. She was the daughter of the U.S. Secretary of State and had to spend time in Bermuda with her nurse because stress affected her sugar levels. A simple illness almost killed her. She was dying, just like most people after a few years of having juvenile diabetes.

But Canadian scientists were researching with dogs and extracting things from cows and pigs and anything else. Insulin didn't just magically appear. It was trial and error, mostly error, but eventually the scientists won the Nobel Prize and Eli Lilly was able to mass produce the insulin. Elizabeth was one the several people involved in the initial trials. The injection sites in her hips were sore and infected a lot, but she magically improved. She was able to adjust her doses of insulin according to her diet and exercise, and gained 30 pounds in three months on insulin. She was finally able to act her age and mature like a normal girl.

Insulin saved Elizabeth's life. And has saved millions of lives since. I can't imagine watching my daughter die of starvation because eating food would kill her. I'm so thankful for the discovery of insulin! Amen!

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