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Family memberBorn in Aylestone, Leicestershire in 1955.
Overview: Terry`s wife, Bena, was diagnosed with diabetes in Uganda in 1965 and came to England when her family was expelled by Idi Amin in 1972. Terry met her in a pub in Leicester in 1979 and did not at first realise that she was Asian. Neither of their families approved of their marriage, but it has been very successful. Terry learnt to cope with her frequent hypos and need for regular meals. Bena gave up being vegetarian and learnt to cook English food. They have two daughters who are also closely involved in helping Bena to manage her diabetes.
There are also interviews with Terry`s wife, Bena and their daughter, Emma.
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(1) Tell me about your background.
Well, me Dad, he
was a lorry driver; worked for British Road Services, travelling up and down
the country, and so on. Me mother, she
didn‘t work, as such, till she… well, later on in life, really, probably her
mid forties. And she was just working in
a factory, as such.
And what kind of
education did you have?
modern; we just did CSEs. I was going to
stay on and do A Levels, but the situation was, me dad died when I was
fourteen, so it was a case of having to get a job, really. So, I mean, the first job, it was working in
a wood yard, getting the orders out for customers, and so on. And then, eventually, I moved into the
hosiery trade as a dyer, and I was working there when I met Bena. That was in 1979. We met... We went out with each other for approximately
two to three months, and decided to get married.
How did you
We just met in
the town centre. We both met in a pub,
started talking, and it went on from there. It was not a very brightly lit pub, and I didn‘t realise she was Asian;
I thought she was probably Spanish, or something like that. She‘s obviously got the Asian accent, but it
wasn‘t that pronounced, at the time, which… when she told me she was Asian, I
was quite surprised. But we just hit it
off, you know, and things went on from there.
And how did her
Well, we had to
tell a lie, as such, because originally, when she came over to the UK from
Uganda, they was living down south, and then they moved up north to Newcastle. And they were there for a few years, so we
just said that we‘d met in
which was a bit of a white lie, you know. And they accepted it, to a certain extent. But the fact that I was English, and she‘s
Asian, didn‘t go down too well. And they
didn‘t think it‘d last, but, obviously, twenty eight years later, it‘s lasted,
How did your
bad. They are, to be honest, a little
bit racist, but they‘ve accepted her, over the years, so...
(2) And when did you first become aware of her
was probably about a couple of weeks before we got married. The family, they seemed to be a bit
concerned, because they thought I didn‘t know anything about diabetes, since... But one of me nieces, she‘s diabetic, so I
had a rough idea what it was all about. Bena told me about it about a couple of weeks before we actually got
married, but that didn‘t concern me, as such, because I did know something
about it. I mean, the first time she
went into a hypo after we were married, it was a bit alarming, to say the
least, but it‘s something that you get used to, over the years.
What are your
memories of that first hypo?
I was very
frightened, because in them days, there was no Glucagon, as such, so it was a
case of you have to phone for an ambulance. And then they‘d take her to hospital and inject her with glucose, after
doing a blood test, and so on, and eventually she would come round.
How often did
It was quite
often, when we first got married. Her
diabetes seemed to be a little bit out of control. But, over the years, it‘s got a lot
better. She seems more stable now, than
she used to be.
In those early
days, did you learn how to spot what was happening?
Yeah, she‘d have
like a glazed look in her eyes. If she
was looking at something, she‘d just stare straight at it, and you talked to
her, and you‘d get no reaction. So, you
more or less knew that there was something wrong. So, then it was a case of trying to get her
to eat something or drink something, to try to bring her out of it.
Did that work?
did, and other times... It depends,
really, on how far she‘d gone. One of
the things I used to do is tickle her feet. That would kind of like bring her round a little bit, because she‘s very
ticklish, and then I‘d try and get her to drink something. So, it was a case of "drink this",
tickle her feet!
(3) Had you learnt much about managing her
diabetes from her family?
Not really; they
didn‘t seem to know that much about it. It was more or less a taboo subject, because... Well, it‘s a case of, they treat people
differently. They tend to treat people
differently as regards, if someone is disabled, then they should marry someone
with a similar disability. It‘s very…
well, to me it‘s strange, but it‘s just the way they treat their own
people. Some years ago, they was trying
to get Bena to marry someone who was in a wheelchair - obviously some kind of
disability - and he was quite older than her, but obviously she didn‘t want to
know. So, maybe I was a gift horse! Bena‘s got a younger sister, Vicki, and she
was treated more as the elder child. It‘s like when me and Bena got married, which was before Vicki, Vicki
wanted us to delay the marriage, and so on, till she got married. But we delayed it for probably a couple of
months, then we thought, "well, we wanna get married, so let‘s get married". So we did. Then it was the case of when Bena became pregnant, Vicki didn‘t like
that, because it was a case of she wanted to have the first grandchild. So, that didn‘t go down too well. But we just carried on anyway, regardless of
what they thought.
What were Bena‘s
During the first
pregnancy, when she was carrying Emma, the oldest child, her diabetes was very
erratic, and she had to go to hospital quite a few times, when she was going
into a hypo. On one occasion, they
thought that she was hyperventilating, and this would cause some problems with
Emma. But, fortunately, she‘s turned out
okay, ‘cause they did think that there may have been brain damage. But she‘s okay, no problems at all.
What about the
That seemed to
go a lot better. Not quite so many hypo
attacks. And again, Sarah, she‘s turned
out fine as well.
(4) Can you tell me more about the signs that you
look for, whether in the day or at night?
Well, at night,
when we‘re in bed, as such, I mean, the only sign you can tell is she gets very
hot. And it‘s literally like laying next
to an electric fire - she gets really hot. So, then it‘s a case of trying to wake her up. If I can‘t wake her up, then do a blood test,
and if the blood sugar‘s gone right down, then give her a glucose
injection. Which, when you think back
over the years, I mean, it‘s a bit of a godsend, as opposed to having to get an
ambulance all the time. So, it made life
a lot easier.
Can you remember,
at all, when that change came, when you managed to cope yourself, rather than
calling out an ambulance?
We moved to this
house in 1996, and as far as I can remember, I don‘t think we‘ve actually
called an ambulance out since then, because it was around about then when they
introduced the Glucagon, which, like I say, is a bit of a godsend, really.
had you had in giving injections?
Bena taught me
how to do the injections not long after we got married, as regards giving her
insulin, and so on, and the amounts that she was using, and so on - which
varied in… well, morning and evening dosages. And as regards to Glucagon, I mean, that was pretty straightforward. We just used to have two containers, one with
the water in, and one with the glucose in. But now, the syringe has already got the water in, so you just inject it
into the glucose vial, then draw it back into the syringe.
Have you ever
received any training or information from the medical profession?
really. I mean, you get the occasional
leaflets, and so on, but nobody actually sits down and says "well, this is
how you do this, and this is how you do that".
(5) Looking back to when you first got married,
did you have to make many adjustments to accommodate Bena‘s diabetes?
Not really. It was a little awkward to begin with, but we
just, well, made our own routine for doing things. Obviously, she had to eat regular times, and
so on, a certain amount of food, and snacks now and again. But basically, just a routine that we fell
Did you change
what you ate?
Myself? Not really. She tended more to change from what she ate, because, obviously, coming
from an Asian background, it was a majority of Asian food that she ate. But, eventually, she got round to cooking
English meals, which didn‘t take too long. Some of the meals were not very good, but I was able to cook, and show
her some things, and so on, so it wasn‘t too bad, really.
So, did you both
eat the same?
Yeah, yeah, we
both ate the same foods. She didn‘t
start eating meat till she actually met me, because she was completely
vegetarian. But she got a taste for
meat, and every other meal, now, we‘ve usually got meat of some kind.
Did you have a
Yeah, well, I
like quite a lot of sugar in me tea, and so on, but I don‘t bother with
biscuits, or anything like that, as such.
Can you talk
about how you felt in the early days, leaving Bena alone with small children
when you went to work?
I was a little
bit wary at first, and I tended to phone home quite a few times, during the
day. And if Bena didn‘t answer the
phone, then one of the children would answer, and I‘d just say "is Mum
okay?", and they‘d say "oh, yeah, she‘s okay". Then I‘d say "can I speak to her?",
and they‘d say "well, she‘s putting the washing out" or something
like that. So, then I knew that she was
Was she ever not
Yeah, on a few
occasions, so then I would just say to the boss, you know, "I‘ve got to go
home. My wife‘s diabetic, I don‘t think
she‘s too well", which... they weren‘t too bad about it. But, after a while, they weren‘t very happy.
Yeah, it did do,
when she was younger, but, like I say, it‘s a lot better now.
(6) What kind of
preparation did you give to the children for managing their mother‘s diabetes?
tended to recognise the symptoms, when she was going into a hypo, like the
glazed look, and so on. And they would
go to the fridge and get some milk, and sometimes get some water and put sugar
in, and give her that. If they were not
able to get hold of me by the phone, then they would phone for an ambulance. And eventually I would come home, and I
invariably got there on time, and we were able to sort it out, and so on.
How has her
diabetes changed over the years?
It‘s got a lot
better, in respect that she doesn‘t have many hypo attacks now. As I say, when we were first married, it was
quite often. But the, like, tell-tale signs
that she would recognise - I mean, she used to get like a tingling in her lip -
but that seems to have gone now. But
when you notice that she‘s going into a hypo, she has, like I say, this glazed
look on her face. So, you tell her to
have something to eat, and she tends to resist a little bit, because she
doesn‘t realise what‘s happening. But
now the penny‘s dropped that, you know, she‘s got to have something to eat, so
she will get something to eat, or I‘ll fetch her something.
Has her diabetes
affected your ability to go out for meals, or see friends, or anything like
really. We go out a couple of times a
month, for a meal, and so on. And we
still socialise just as much as before, really?
Has her diabetes
been a worry for you, over the years?
In general, no,
but, I mean, there‘s been the odd occasion. It‘s like when she‘s... I‘ve had
a phone call, when she‘s at work, and she‘s had a hypo attack. I mean, they‘ve got someone there that‘s
first aid, and so on, but they‘ve no real experience as regards diabetes. So, they end up calling an ambulance, and so
on. So, I get a call to say that there‘s
an ambulance on the way, and so on, whereas I could just go there and give her
a glucose injection, and sort it out there and then. But…
(7) What happens when you arrive at the hospital?
Well, she‘s in
the accident and emergency, and she‘s taken through to a private cubicle. They do a blood test, and then inject her
with glucose, according to the blood test result.
Do you ever get
the impression that they mind, or have minded you calling out an ambulance so
Not really. They‘ve never been upset about us calling for
an ambulance, and so on. They‘ve been
reasonably good, over the years.
Which members of
the family have been most involved in managing Bena‘s diabetes?
when the children were younger, but as the children have got older, they‘ve
been able to cope. The two children,
Emma and Sarah, they‘ve been coping with Bena‘s diabetes since they were about
nine or ten. They‘ve got more confidence
in what they were doing, and so on, with regards just giving her something to
eat or drink.
What would be
your message to any man who was thinking of marrying somebody who‘d got
afraid. A diabetic person is just the
same as anybody else - they just need a little bit more help as regards to
diet, and so on. I mean, me and Bena, we‘ve
been married twenty eight years. We‘ve had
no serious problems, as such. There‘s
been a few ups and downs, same as any other marriage, but we‘re still together.