On 11 January in 1922, a 14-year-old boy in Toronto was given the first insulin injection to treat diabetes. His name was Leonard Thompson, and he lived for another 13 years, before dying of pneumonia when he was 27 years old.
When he was given insulin for the first time, Leonard was on the only treatment available at the time for those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He was on a starvation diet, and he was close to death, drifting in and out of a coma because of diabetic ketoacidosis.
There are dates each year that trigger reminder lessons in the discovery of insulin. On those days, I say a silent thank you to Banting and Best for their work, grateful to them for my life and I peek into my refrigerator at the vials of insulin within easy reach for when they are needed.
But I also feel a great sense of sadness and frustration, because today, ninety-five years after Leonard Thompson was given his first insulin injection, this miracle drug is still inaccessible to so many people with diabetes. And people are dying, suffering in the way that Leonard was before he was given the drug for the first time.
Yes, I said ‘suffering’. And I don’t use that word. I don’t suffer from diabetes – I live with it. But make no mistake, someone who cannot access insulin and is dying from diabetic ketoacidosis is suffering. They are in pain; their body is in distress. They are dying.
The playing field is so un-level and that is simply not fair. So if you are able to – if you are one of the fortunate ones with insulin in your fridge, please do consider donating to those who are not.
Insulin for Life Global needs donations to fund transport costs for delivering insulin to those most in need. AUD$12.50 will cover the cost of sending two weeks’ worth of insulin.
Around Valentine’s Day each year, Spare a Rose, Save a Child suggests sending 11 instead of 12 roses. The AUD$6 saved provides insulin for a month to child with diabetes through the IDF’s Life for a Child program.
And for AUD$10, T1 International will send out their advocacy toolkit to five people with type 1 diabetes, providing information about how they can stand up for their rights.