People with Diabetes
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Before diagnosis

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Before diagnosis Christmas 1953 Shortly after diagnosis, with his father and younger brother
With his daughters, after diabetic study caused him to lose 2 stone Ian Vokins, 2005
 
 
Interview 44 Ian Vokins

Person with diabetes
Born in Steventon, Oxon in 1942.
Diagnosed Type 1 in Abingdon in 1954


Overview: Ian Vokins was diagnosed shortly after leaving junior school and when he joined his secondary modern school, he was treated `like an alien` and fed dried apricots at every school dinner for 3 years! He was bullied throughout his school-days and left as soon as he could, aged 15. After that, life `seemed to open up` and he `started learning` while he worked as a technician in fields as diverse as atomic energy, cryogenics, orthotics, packaging, and space science. His work often took him abroad, and he says that diabetes hasn`t stopped him doing anything, apart from flying aeroplanes!

Please note that Overview relates to date of recording 01 February 2005

 Short samples

1 After diagnosis he spent some weeks in Oxford’s Radcliffe Infirmary but, thanks to control problems, was soon admitted to the Churchill Hospital for 11 weeks. There he ate lots of potatoes and no trace of sugar – until one doctor took pity on him… [ 59 secs ]

2 He remembers very good medical care when he was a child, and wonders if it’s partly nostalgia for that level of attention that makes him feel doctors aren’t interested in him now. [ 54 secs ]

 
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01 Born 1942. Berkshire villages. Father driver; mother with Esso. Brother diagnosed later – no other history. Poor family. Post-war rations. Bullied at school - left at 15 – learning began!
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02 Mother cooked well. I helped father`s repairs, saw films, roamed outdoors..
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03 Diagnosed 1954. GP referred to Radcliffe Infirmary, 3 to 4 weeks. 80 units Insulin Zinc Suspension. Later, Churchill Hospital – potatoes, no sugar…
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04 …poor control, insulin increased, diet hard. Lady doctor allowed more liberal diet. Control improved. Left after 11 weeks on 100+ units. Enjoyed children`s ward.
Injected orange.
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05 Shock – parents knew little re diabetes - soon adapted.
Hospital urine testing - test tube – always orange. Later Clinitest.
Diet – Protein “free”, carbohydrate strict. Given scales by…
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06 …almoner, for carbohydrate. After Churchill, secondary modern. Treated like alien – dried apricots daily! Friend`s mother asked if diabetes catching. One pupil had “drinking diabetes.”.
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07 Treated same by teachers. Didn`t use diabetes as excuse. Sports. Told people re diabetes, fearing hypos. “Hypo” means many things. Fell off bike unconscious, aged 14. Only 8 full hypos ever.
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08 Insulin mixture once daily. Large needles blocked. Glass syringes exploded – metal & glass scarcely better. Boiled syringe, kept in meths.
After school, apprentice, RAF maintenance, then Atomic Energy – trained in Dorset – managed – not treated differently.
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09 Life improved after leaving school – dancing, motorbike, smoking, not much drinking – less than brother because diagnosed younger. Ignored advice not to smoke…
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10 …everyone did.
Clinic 3-monthly, then 6-monthly. Urine tests high – later told renal threshold low.
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11 Aged 17, got motorbike. Father`s diabetic friend crashed car. Told insurance I was diabetic - biking banned. Next year, got car insurance. Brother had no insurance problems.
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12 After apprenticeship, worked in atomic energy. Married aged 24. Before marriage, saw doctor re fear of breeding diabetics – reassured. Two children – not diabetic. Always feared early death.
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13 When youngest son born, 1971, working in Oxford cryogenics lab. Then hospital research technician. 2 injections daily – reluctant, but better. Stress – referred to psychiatrist – suggested Zen Buddhism…
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14 …helped diabetes. If stressed, levels go up – causes more stress. High sugars – irritable; low sugars – negative. Don`t use diabetes as excuse, but true. Wife copes well – copies mother – leaves alone. Need calm.
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15 Mother calm.
Doctors should respect your knowledge & give reassurance – shouldn`t give prognosis. Memories of good doctors.
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16 Diabetic nurses introduced. Mine hard to contact.
Late 1970s, took part in opthalmist`s study at Radcliffe, but didn`t take tablets! Early 1980s, tried insulin for 2 Australian researchers – lost 2 stone – other doctor changed me back.
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17 1980, worked for Metal Box – sent to Holland – first flight – traumatic, but diabetes OK. Then went to States regularly – coped. Sugar levels rise at first – stress? –
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18 …took longer to come down in States. Hard to eat on time, but coped. 1992 – to California for 2 years with wife & daughter – fine – doctor reduced high cholesterol. Then unemployed, then Metal Box again. 1997, ran workshop in space science department.
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19 Aged 60, 2002, retired. Now odd jobs. Current contract in Birmingham University`s space science.
Eyes cloudy. Podiatrist says feet fine - some loss of feeling. Ear infection. Blood pressure tablets.
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20 Main improvement - easy blood tests – 4 or 5 times daily – lack warnings. Syringes improved. 2002 - pen. Recently 4 injections daily- less than third of insulin taken 30 years ago. Don`t choose more liberal diet.
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21 In past, told to alter insulin – preferred to alter carbohydrate. Now 4 injections more flexible.
Not so well cared for as formerly – less important because older? – recent clinic visits 9-monthly – waste of time & parking fee.
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22 Diabetes nurse good but hard to contact. When she was away, went to GP – referred back to hospital. Insisted on seeing consultant – rebuked for not seeing nurse.
Diabetes hasn`t stopped active life – now golf.
Message: look after yourself; don`t let diabetes rule; don`t use it as crutch; be normal.
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Transcript
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