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Isle of Wight Man awarded medal by Diabetes UK for living with diabetes for 70 years

A Newport man has received a medal for living with diabetes for 70 years despite being told by doctors he had just ten days to live when he was aged four. 

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Donald Hunt, 75, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1947, but a combination of a healthy diet, exercise, advances in treatment and taking good care of himself has ensured he has managed his condition successfully for seven decades.

The John Macleod award was given by Diabetes UK in recognition of Donald’s courage and perseverance in handling the condition. It's awarded to people who have lived with diabetes for 70 years. John Macleod was awarded half of the Nobel Prize for the discovery of insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin. No one knows exactly what causes it, but it’s not to do with being overweight and it isn’t currently preventable. It’s the most common type of diabetes in children and young adults, starting suddenly and getting worse quickly. Type 1 diabetes is treated by daily insulin doses – taken either by injections or via an insulin pump.

Courage and perseverance

The John Macleod award was given by Diabetes UK in recognition of Donald’s courage and perseverance in handling the condition. The John Macleod medal is awarded to people who have lived with diabetes for 70 years. John Macleod was awarded half of the Nobel Prize for the discovery of insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin. No one knows exactly what causes it, but it’s not to do with being overweight and it isn’t currently preventable. It’s the most common type of diabetes in children and young adults, starting suddenly and getting worse quickly. Type 1 diabetes is treated by daily insulin doses – taken either by injections or via an insulin pump.

Don, a retired carpenter and grandfather of three, who has lived on the island all his life, said: “I was diagnosed with Type 1 in July 1947, a year before the NHS came into being. It was by sheer luck I was diagnosed on a family trip to Canvey Island when a local doctor thankfully recognised my symptoms: feeling thirsty, losing weight and immediately sent me to hospital for further tests. That family trip saved my life. The hospital doctors told my parents, without the proper diagnosis, I would have had just ten days to live.

I'm on an insulin which really helps me manage my diabetes

“So much has changed for the better in terms of treatment. In those days, it was the daily drawn out process of sterilising needles and glass syringes by boiling them. Luckily, my mum was a nurse so she showed me how to take my insulin injections from a very early age, and conquer my fear of syringes. Now, I’m on an insulin pump which really helps me manage my diabetes. I have a lot to be thankful for. I was one of the first people on the island to get access to disposable syringes and then, later in life, one of the first of the older generation to get a pump. I’m especially grateful to Dr Arun Baksi at St Mary’s who has done so much to help me manage my diabetes successfully over the years. Dr Baksi’s expertise helped transform diabetes care on the island and as a community we owe him a great deal. The biggest thank you of all, goes to my lovely wife of 54 years, Sybil, who has given me so much help and support.”

Retired Consultant Physician, Dr Baksi, said: “Donald is an example of how much an empowered person can achieve. He deserves the acknowledgement bestowed on him.”

Jill Steaton, Regional Head at Diabetes UK South East, said: “Donald is an inspiration, and has really shown how taking control of your diabetes can lead to a long and healthy life.

“Diabetes is a serious and complex condition. Poorly managed it can lead to devastating but avoidable complications such as blindness, amputation and stroke. 

“Too many people suffer these complications unnecessarily. With the right care throughout their lives people like Don manage the condition well and reduce the risk of developing complications.”

 

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