Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Living History (Or Anything is Possible)

A few months ago, one of my daughters had a field trip to the Natural History Museum.  While I enjoy the look back at our world, part of me is often deeply saddened at the thought that pre-1921, there was no such thing as insulin. 

Sigh.  I won't go there to explain all of the reasons because I am pretty sure you can guess.  I especially like to hurry through the early 1800s because of the visual impact in the realization that there was no insulin.  Seeing the old black and white family photos and 3D stereographs of children splashed around the museum 2nd floor still bother me.

The emotions run a full range of deep sadness, terror and an immense relief.  What would we have done?  Thank goodness my children were born in a modern era. 

I breathe a sigh of relief when I recognize the part of Natural History Museum that looks like it is mid-century modern.  By the 1930's, medicine had improved tremendously.

We would have been OK.  Not great, but certainly, OK.

Despite the limitations of early insulin, sharpening syringes and boiling needles, people survived.  Not just for a few years either and not just in the most sterile of conditions.  In fact, there are a few men and women floating around cyber space that are truly legends in their own rights.  Bob Krause just received an award for living 85 years with type 1 diabetes.  He is 90- years old and going strong.  I already love him.

Even post 1921, there are a few moments in history, like WWII, where one can assume that insulin had to be extremely difficult to receive, even for a family living in the United States.  In Europe, where a loaf of bread was hard to come by, finding insulin sources would seem impossible.  The feeling of terror comes right back to me.

What would we have done? My only two babies... 

This is where I buckle down and demand to know positive examples of living with type 1 diabetes in those early years.  I can't be bogged down by the 'what-ifs' if I am going to be an example for my own two girls.  One day, they are going to connect the dots and want to know if they could have survived being born in those early years.  I want to tell them a very definitive YES.

One story that I came across is an account of the life of Ernest Sterzer.  What makes this story extra special is that he quite possibly, is the only patient diagnosed with type 1 diabetes to survive the Holocaust.  While his story is truly horrific, he calmly tells a tale of living with type 1 diabetes and overcoming the world's greatest challenge of being a Jewish boy in the middle of Vienna.  At the end of his story, he explains that be sent to the concentration camps saved his life, with absolutely no malice.

Simply put:  he is a hero and a great reminder that anything is possible.

I plan on keeping this story with me for as long as I can.  When those days of feeling like a failure for not achieving perfect artificial pancreas status hit, I will try to remember that this is a journey and that we are so lucky to be living in this very, very modern day and age.

We are OK.  Very OK.

Below is a link of his story, in his own words.  The story is also available at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.. 


Special thanks to dlife.com for airing this information and providing an opportunity to share the courage of Mr. Sterzer, an inspiration to all who live with type 1 diabetes.

No comments: