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Diabetes UK says farewell to its President

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Richard Lane OBE, who has campaigned tirelessly for people with diabetes, is stepping down from his role as President of Diabetes UK after 10 years of commitment to the charity.

Richard from Bromley, Kent, became President of Diabetes UK in 2008, following three years of working for the charity in a volunteering capacity.

Richard travelled over 35,000 miles on the charity’s behalf

Over the past decade he has travelled the length and breadth of the UK, raising the profile of Diabetes UK and its work, particularly encouraging and inspiring Diabetes UK volunteers and local groups through talks and hundreds of visits. He became Vice President of the charity in 2007 and President in 2008. In his time as President, Richard travelled over 35,000 miles on the charity’s behalf – a distance that equates to more than once around the world.

Richard, 72, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1976 aged 32. In the months following diagnosis he was told he had ‘brittle diabetes’, a form of Type 1 diabetes which is harder to control than others because it can lead to blood glucose levels changing extremely quickly, with little or no warning. This meant he did not have hypo-awareness, so could not recognise the signs that he was suffering from dangerously low blood glucose levels, which can lead to loss of consciousness and can even be fatal. This had a huge impact on Richard’s life and he had to give up playing his beloved cricket and hockey because his body simply couldn’t cope with the effect of exercise.

But worse was to follow as Richard suffered a number of diabetic comas, including slipping into a coma at the wheel of his car. As a result he broke two vertebrae in his back and spent 18 months in and out of hospital; culminating in major spinal surgery. Poor health meant he had to retire from his job as a partner in a large accountancy firm.

Life-changing surgery

Despite this, when doctors initially offered Richard islet transplantation, where cells are taken from a donor pancreas and implanted into the liver of someone with Type 1 diabetes, he was wary of being a ‘guinea pig’ for the procedure and turned it down. But as the diabetic comas continued he knew he had to do something and in 2004 and 2005 he underwent the first fully successful pioneering islet cell transplants in the UK, at King’s College Hospital in London. The surgery was life-changing; it meant an end to Richard depending on insulin to manage his condition – a first for someone living with Type 1 diabetes in the UK.

A year later Richard had to start taking insulin again but the transplant had had a hugely beneficial impact on his diabetes as it restored his hypo-awareness, enabling him to manage his diabetes better and avoid the trauma of diabetic comas.

Following his pioneering treatment, which prompted enormous reaction from the media and general public, Richard’s uppermost thought was that he wanted to give something back. “I wanted to know who had funded the research that had led to the islet transplantation,” he said. “When I discovered it was Diabetes UK I basically just said, ‘What can I do to help?’"

"Earlier this year I met Her Majesty The Queen at St James’s Palace"

Richard said: “The best thing about working with Diabetes UK has been meeting tens of thousands of inspirational people, many of whom are living with diabetes and who have made a lasting impression on me. I have hugely appreciated the opportunity to present awards, on behalf of the charity, that recognise the commitment and hard work of its volunteers, many of whom live with diabetes or support people who have the condition. Earlier this year I also met Her Majesty The Queen at St James’s Palace at the Diabetes UK’s 80th anniversary celebrations and that was quite a moment! Quite simply, I have loved every minute of it.”

Richard now plans to enjoy spending more time with his wife, Paula, their two children and his young grandchildren. However he will remain very much involved with Diabetes UK, having agreed to become an Ambassador for the charity. He is the first person to take on this role which will see him supporting the charity to nurture ongoing relationships with key supporters.“I will be watching with interest to see how research continues to push the boundaries for people with diabetes over the next few years,” said Richard. “Ultimately I want to see a world without diabetes.”

"Richard has worked tirelessly for Diabetes UK"

Chris Askew, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “Over the past 10 years Richard has worked tirelessly for Diabetes UK and his passion and commitment have really shone through. We are hugely grateful for all his support to date in helping us to reach and support even more people living with diabetes across the UK.

“As we wish him all the very best for the future, we are also delighted that he will continue to play an important part in our work as Ambassador for Diabetes UK.”

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