East Vic Park diabetes patient marvels at advances in treatment

Terry Atkinson received a Kellion Victory Award for living with diabetes for more than 50 years. Picture: Jon Hewson www.communitypix.com.au d472147
Terry Atkinson received a Kellion Victory Award for living with diabetes for more than 50 years. Picture: Jon Hewson www.communitypix.com.au d472147

DIABETES was still a hidden disease in the 1960s, according to Terry Atkinson, and it was a complicated process to inject insulin each day.

The 57-year-old East Victoria Park resident has lived with type 1 diabetes since he was a toddler.

“Back in the 1960s, it was hard because diabetes wasn’t in the news as much, but now type 2 diabetes is out of control,” Mr Atkinson said.

“It was a lot different in the ’60s and ’70s. It was hard to tell people because there would be an instant shock, gasp reaction, so you tended to keep it to yourself.

“I’ve had to avoid sweet things like chocolate and cool drinks because it increases your blood sugar level.

“Back then, it was a long process to give yourself an injection – you needed to boil a glass syringe and it was quite heavy.

“As a child, I knew I was a little different because I needed insulin injections.

“I accepted it and never let it control me. I continued to play sport and I didn’t want it getting in the way.”

Mr Atkinson said advancements in the 1980s made life much easier for him.

“With disposable syringes, these days I can be sitting at a restaurant and give myself a quick jab,” he said.

Diabetes WA health services general manager Deborah Schofield said diabetes technology had progressed remarkably over the past 50 years.

“Blood glucose meters have become smaller, smarter and quicker and can now interact with smartphone apps and computers,” she said.

“We now have Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) which has evolved over the past 15 years to give us versatile, reliable devices that monitor the course of blood glucose fluctuations in real time and provide interactive feedback to the person living with diabetes.

“Exciting next steps being taken are the technology of CGM integrating with insulin pumps, which opens the field for automated closed-loop control, known as the artificial pancreas.

“In other words, a system which can mimic the pancreas more closely, rather than putting this burden on the individual.”

Mr Atkinson was awarded the Kellion Victory Award for living with diabetes for more than 50 years.

“My wife Carolyn nominated me,” he said.

“I hadn’t heard about the award until talking with my specialist a few years ago,” he said.

“I’m really glad to receive it because I have lived with diabetes so long.”