Family Members
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Beryl and Catherine, 1986

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Beryl and Catherine, 1986 Catherine with David, soon after her diagnosis, 1965 David at time of his diagnosis, 1983
Catherine and David, 1986 Catherine and her baby, 1988 Beryl Smith, 2008
 
 
Interview 97 Beryl Smith

Family member and former nurse
Born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1935.


Overview: Beryl Smith first met children with diabetes when she was a student nurse and junior staff nurse at Birmingham Children`s Hospital from 1953 to 1957. She gave up nursing after she got married and didn`t encounter diabetes again until her own daughter, Catherine, was diagnosed in 1964, at the age of five. Catherine had so-called ‘brittle` diabetes, with frequent hypos – until she received two islet transplants in 2006/7. Beryl`s husband, David, developed Type 2 diabetes in 1983. At first he was on tablets, but was able to manage on diet alone after he lost four and a half stone.

Please note that Overview relates to date of recording 11 April 2008

 Short samples

1 While Beryl was a student nurse, she found that children quite enjoyed testing their own urine, but didn’t enjoy having different food from the other children and certainly didn’t enjoy learning to inject themselves [ 60 secs ]

2 Beryl is very grateful for the National Health Service and believes that if Catherine had had islet transplants in America, the whole family would now be impoverished. [ 58 secs ]

 
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01 Born Stoke on Trent 1935. Father engineer in Coventry, then Navy in war, then business.
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02 Secondary modern school. Wanted to be nurse. At 15, Coventry & Warwickshire preliminary nursing school. Birmingham Childrens` Hospital.
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03 Course started 1953. 7 dropped out. Long hours. Teaching good – Professor Smellie.
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04 Diabetic children stayed 2 weeks twice a year. Urine testing. Hypos. 4-hourly injections, soluble insulin. Food measured – unlike other children. Most diabetics don`t understand body.
Did own injections, aged 12. Difficult life.
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05 Returned to children`s ward, 3rd year, 1956 – still strict diets, soluble insulin only, taught children urine-testing.
Married – husband research chemist. Catherine born 1959. I taught music. Catherine developed diabetes, 1964 – after being smacked. GP incredulous. Bedford Hospital.
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06 In for 2 weeks – couldn`t stabilise – unsuitable food. I stabilised her with diet. We ate same diet. I was against special school. Got her into convent. Aged 6, got encephalitis – off school 1 year. GPs good, consultant no good.
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07 Husband`s grandfather diabetic. Catherine`s grandfather said God would take it away. Catherine did urine-testing – sometimes cheated. Did own injections aged 7 or 8 – painful. Insulin free, needles & syringes not. 2 injections daily until 12 or 13. Treated at Oxford from age 10.
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08 Oxford better than Bedford. Went every 2 months. Admitted when sugars high. Once caused by eating crisps. Changed insulin, c.1975. Stable until puberty.
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09 During periods, out of control. Eye treatment. Couldn`t do what others did. Depressed – ran in front of car. Dr. Hockaday & psychiatrist wife good.
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10 Often missed school, but caught up. Birmingham University. Diabetes ‘brittle`. Didn`t anticipate hypos – I did. 4 injections daily.
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11 Diabetes made husband anxious. I took degree & teaching diploma – Catherine cross. I`d fostered children, but not allowed to adopt, because of her diabetes. She fought diabetes.
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12 Catherine rejected for social work training & speech therapy because diabetic. Did Dip Ed. Worked with disabled. Vision deteriorated – laser treatment. Married, moved to Hereford, job with less able.
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13 Also got work with physically handicapped. Became pregnant – diabetes out of control, stayed with us, husband had accident, she had meningitis, son born by Caesarean. Diabetes brittle – I often looked after baby. Catherine got carpal tunnel syndrome - operation at Oxford - returned to work part-time, still often in hospital, son stayed with us.
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14 Still brittle – hypos at work. Has islet transplants, 2006 & 2007 – no hypos, no more headaches, insulin halved – heaven.
I`ve continued caring role, but mustn`t try to run her life. She can`t drive, so I drive to hospital.
NHS marvellous – better than USA.
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15 Husband David got Type 2 diabetes, 1983 – obese. Lost 4 ½ stone - came off tablets. Became anxious. High blood pressure. Retired early.
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16 I diagnosed him – symptoms not as bad as Catherine`s. I put him on diet - pack of cards with calories.
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17 Important for family to have same diet. He liked to measure everything. Diabetics must keep clean – immune system not good.
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18 Husband well before diabetes – afterwards, ill with colds, like Catherine. He retired 1985, got diverticulosis, 1989.
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19 Diabetes didn`t change, but he was never same again. Moved to Hereford, 1994, to be near Catherine. I discovered he knew he`d got Parkinson`s Disease – died 2001.
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20 Husband diagnosed 1983, aged 53 – diet, but exercise not mentioned.
Radcliffe gave Catherine support, but my chief support from sister
Catherine had transplants – great-grandfather died of diabetes & ancestor died of ‘wasting disease` – diabetes?
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