People with Diabetes
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Erika (right) with friends in Vienna

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Erika (right) with friends in Vienna In Vienna On boat to England, 1939
In Girl Guide uniform Playing the oboe Erika, 2004
 
 
Interview 11 Erika Harding

Person with diabetes
Born in Vienna, Austria in 1931.
Diagnosed Type 1 in Reigate, Surrey in 1940


Overview: Erika Harding`s father was Jewish and, in 1939, after the Nazis invaded Austria, she came by boat to England. When she looks at her photo of the thin, hollow-eyed little girl on the boat, she`s sure that she already had diabetes. After diagnosis, she was treated at King`s College Hospital, London, by R.D. Lawrence (co-founder of the British Diabetes Association, now Diabetes UK). She left grammar school at 18 and worked as a medical laboratory scientist until she retired. She and her artist husband have both played in many chamber music ensembles.

Please note that Overview relates to date of recording 09 June 2004

 Short samples

1 She remembers that wartime rations allowed diabetics more protein than other people, but less sugar [ 57 secs ]

2 She was put on the Lawrence Line Diet, which involved constant weighing of both carbohydrate and protein on portable scales. However, two Girl Guide camps changed her approach to diet completely [ 60 secs ]

 
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01 Born Vienna, 1931. Parents separated when aged 3. Father Jewish. Mother & I had to leave when Nazis invaded. Left after 8th birthday.
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02 Went to Switzerland, then to England. Mother did domestic work for Oxford history professor.
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03 Had been well-off, but not in England. I went to live with father & step-mother in refugee hostel in Surrey. When ill, they thought I was naughty.
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04 Father & stepmother interned, so mother came to hostel. I drank 24 glasses of milk at party. Went to GP. Straight to East Surrey Hospital. Coma. In hospital 2 or 3 weeks. Accepted need for injections.
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05 Not in bed. Lawrence Line diet. Extra wartime rations.
Took scales to Guide camp but not used.
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06 Cake at Guide camp. Gradually abandoned strict diet during teens. Lots of exercise.
At age 9, lost consciousness. Mother not warned re hypos.
In hospital, tested urine with Benedict`s solution. Later used tablets, but reluctant to test in teens.
Mother did injections until delayed by air raid…
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07 …& I did injections from then on. (Husband taught but doesn`t do them.)
Stole cakes. Mother became matron of hostel for ill evacuees, so I didn`t feel different. (At previous school, before diagnosed, girls said I smelled.)
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08 Put on insulin twice daily. Before diagnosis, constantly went to loo. I look ill in photo on boat to England. Finally diagnosed 1940.
After diagnosis, no problems at private school.
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09 2 years at grammar school in Reigate. Mother moved to run hostel in Croydon. I moved to Croydon grammar.
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10 Mother moved back to Reigate. I moved to Reigate Grammar sixth-form. Often ill. Afraid of leaving mother alone to go to university, so got job.
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11 At Reigate Grammar, diabetes no problem, but prevented spontaneity. (Another diabetic pupil attacked teachers during hypo.)
At diagnosis, mother thought I`d die. People impressed she let me go to Guide camp. She was neurotic.
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12 Turned down for lab technician job at East Surrey Hospital on grounds of diabetes. Got job at King`s Hospital, London: long hours. (Had been treated at King`s since diagnosis. Met RD Lawrence. Appendix out later…
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13 …in well-run diabetic ward. Blood testing long process. Did as I was told.)
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14 When started work at King`s, put on long-lasting insulin once a day – bad idea. Unbalanced – beginning of current problems.
Loved work in laboratories. Did final exam in haematology.
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15 After 5 or 6 years, moved to Hammersmith Hospital. Hated it. Resigned. Moved to small Ealing hospital. Exams in bacteriology. Became senior technician. Went out with artist husband-to-be for 7 years, then married in `68 & moved to Oxford.
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16 Job in bacteriology at Radcliffe Hospital, then John Radcliffe. They made no allowances for diabetes & I fought to get lunch hour.
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17 Became chief technologist. Taught staff. Specialised in fungi.
Became breathless playing oboe and…
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18 …had heart attack in `84. Off work for 6 months. Difficult to persuade consultant to take me back.
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19 Worked for 4 more years, despite angina. Arteries in legs furred up. Heel debrided. Retired aged 57.
Colleagues always aware of diabetes, but not bothered.
Medical students didn`t want to marry diabetic…
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20 …part cause of late marriage. (Other cause, mother`s dependence.) Met husband through playing chamber music. Husband not bothered by diabetes.
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21 Didn`t want children. In `68, told I`d have to spend 6 months in hospital before birth.
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22 Retired in `88 because of feet. Nurse came to home. Moved house. Tried playing different musical instruments.
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23 Played cello until broke shoulder.
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24 Had physiotherapy, but had to give up playing – devastating. Developed Clostridium difficile. Began active gardening. Joined history society.
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25 Good retirement. Podiatrist at diabetic clinic wonderful. Plastic surgeon operated on ankle. Feet much better since…
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26 …operation. Clostridium difficile returned - in hospital for 3 weeks. Previously in hospital for heel & heart attack. Have also been in for angioplasties. Can still walk.
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27 Neuropathy. Cataracts. Kidneys all right.
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28 Have known more type 2 than type 1. Don`t know of any diabetes in family.
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29 Skin not bad. Changed from testing in fingers to legs & arms.
Never had diabetic nurse until about a year ago. Nurses more practical than doctors. Doctors vary greatly.
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30 More senior doctors willing to answer questions.
Diabetes has affected life in many ways.
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31 Now harder to keep body active, but keep mind active.
Began Glargine recently. Currently not well balanced. Asked for insulin pump…
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32 …told must go on course first. On waiting list. Already know a lot. Balance hard when out for meal.
Advice: don`t pretend diabetes isn`t there. Not a normal life, but can lead full life.
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Transcript
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Extras
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