When Dennis Miskie was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1966, he spent a week in hospital and was discharged with merely “a couple of sheets of paper” listing the types of food he could eat and how much, along with a warning about blindness if he didn’t control his condition properly.
He was 14 at the time, just finishing Grade 8.
“Being a hamburger and French fry eating teenager, the future appeared rather bleak to me.”
Earlier this month, however, Dennis marked 50 years of living well with type 1 diabetes as a one of four recipients of the 2016 recipients of the Diabetes Half Century Awards presented at St. Joseph’s Hospital in London. The awards are presented annually by St. Joseph’s Health Care London and Novo Nordisk Canada Inc. Patients with insulin-dependent diabetes who reach 50 years since their diagnosis are nominated by their endocrinologist. They are honoured for their personal commitment and diligence in looking after their health, and for acting as a role model to all those living with the condition. Each recipient receives a print of London’s Banting House and a special medal to commemorate their achievement.
For Dennis, the turning point in his diabetes treatment came 25 years ago when he was referred to Dr. Irene Hramiak, Chair/Chief of the Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
“Dr. Hramiak’s approach to managing the disease was different than anything I had encountered before. I will always remember Dr. Hramiak saying at my first visit ‘We’re going to make this disease fit your lifestyle, not your lifestyle fit the disease.’ …I have learned so much, and continue to learn about diabetes management, from Dr. Hramiak and the diabetes educators and dietitians at St. Joseph’s Diabetes Education Centre.”
At the awards presentation on Nov. 9, Dr. Hramiak referred to Dennis and the other 2016 recipients - Ann Imrie, Caroline Gibson and Ollie Wolanski – as “true survivors” having lived through the early years of glass syringes, urine sticks to monitor blood sugar, and rudimentary care and education. Their experiences with diabetes have endured for nearly half the journey of care with insulin, which was invented in 1921. Dr. Hramiak praised them for their invaluable contributions to new and innovative treatments that have transformed the lives of those with diabetes.
Mary Muehler, Director of Medicine Services at St. Joseph’s, told the recipients that their success motivates clinicians and researchers to continue the quest to improve care and outcomes for those with the condition.
“Only you know the true impact diabetes have had on your lives and the lives of your loved ones. Fifty years of living with diabetes is a tremendous feat – every moment, every day.”
Over the past 13 years, more than 130 patients have received St. Joseph’s Diabetes Half Century Awards. This year’s presentation coincides with the 125th birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, considered the father of insulin. For the first time, the awards also brought together representatives of Canada’s ‘big three’ in the insulin production - Novo Nordisk Canada, Eli Lilly Canada, and Sanofi Canada – each of which congratulated the recipients and provided them with a gift.