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Family memberBorn in Coalville, Leicestershire in 1930.
Overview: When Madge married Roy in 1951, he`d had diabetes since 1942. He didn`t tell people about it and when she met him he was driving a mobile shop, having previously driven a lorry. He went on to drive a concrete mixer, involved in constructing the M1. He had serious hypos throughout their married life and she woke each night to check he was all right. She rarely had an unbroken night`s sleep until he changed insulin a year ago. He began to lose his sight in 1972, so she did all the driving, and eventually also guided him about.
There is also an interview with Madge`s husband Roy
(1) He was diagnosed in 1942, and you married in 1951
(1) He was diagnosed in 1942, and you married in
1951. How was he coping with diabetes
when you married?
He was coping
quite well. He didn‘t let it worry him;
it‘s never bothered him very much. And
he did have hypos, and I got fetched from work, one day, and that was the first
time I‘d seen him in a hypo. But the
doctor was there, and he gave him an injection and brought him round quite
What was his
Well, by the
time I got there, he was just lying sort of unconscious on the settee. And the doctor was giving him this injection,
and he came round quite quickly from that, but… And then, afterwards, I found out that you could get glucose powder to
mix with water to bring them round, and then there are dextrose tablets, glucose
tablets, that fetch him round. You can
get an injection, but they don‘t last... they only last for a month, and, you
know, if you‘ve not had a hypo in that month then you‘ve wasted it, so I didn‘t
bother with them. But he has had quite a
lot of hypos. And it was a worry, when
he was lorry driving, because, you know, it‘s dangerous.
When was he
Well, he was
lorry driving before I met him, and when I met him, he was driving a mobile
shop round the villages - that was before supermarkets, when people shopped
locally. And he did have a hypo when he
was doing that, and his boss‘s son brought him home. And then he left there, and he went to work...
he drove a concrete mixer on the motorway, on the M1, when they were building
the M1. But that didn‘t last very long, because
the M1 was about finished, then - or that section was - and so he went into the
When he was
driving a concrete mixer, or a truck, or a mobile van, did any of his bosses
know that he‘d got diabetes?
The boss of the
mobile van did, but I don‘t know about the others; I‘m not sure.
(2)Can you tell me more about coping with his hypos when you first got
married, in the 1950s?
Well, it was
quite frightening, really, because he would be... I did sometimes send for a doctor,
but they didn‘t like to come out to them; you know, you were supposed to cope
by yourself. And so, I found out about
these... the glucose that you could get, and the dextrose tablets, and that
made it a bit easier. But it was, you
know, quite frightening. And a lot of
his hypos were during the night.
How did you
become aware of them?
Well, he would
sweat, he would be... and the bed would be wet; really sweat. And I got to that I knew - it was usually
between two and
How did he
behave when he had a hypo?
he would shake a lot, and his arms would flail about, and, you know, he really…
It wasn‘t as though he was just lying
there quietly. He was sort of acting a
bit violent, and yeah, that was worrying, that I often… I had to dodge his arms,
and that, that were going about.
(3) Can you tell me about your diet, after you
Well, when I was
at home, we always had just plain food - meat and veg, and things - and that
was what I carried on doing, because we weren‘t told about a specific diet,
when we were first married, except carbohydrates and sweet things. So, we just ate plain food, and I didn‘t do
puddings or desserts, and didn‘t buy many cakes - only for the children. And that‘s the way we‘ve always lived.
the children. Tell me about them.
Well, we had
three: two girls and a boy. And they
just accepted, you know, what their Dad… what was wrong with him, and they
coped very well. And they grew up, and
they ate the same as we did, and still do; they still like their Sunday roast,
and things like that. They don‘t eat
fancy foods, although one of them owns a pub, and she does all the cooking in
the pub; she‘s a really good cook. And
then the boy died, when he was thirty eight, from cancer, and that was a sad
loss, but the two girls are still around.
Were you at all
worried that your children might get diabetes?
Well, I did
think about it quite a lot, but they‘ve had no problems at all. And one daughter‘s got two boys, and they‘re
You said that
they‘re quite healthy. Do you think of diabetes
as being unhealthy?
Not really, I
just think it‘s more of a nuisance. I mean,
Roy is quite...
he‘s always been quite well, apart from that. He‘s had no problems at all, apart from his diabetes, and so… until 2003,
when he did have some illnesses.
Well, one day he
just said "I don‘t feel very well", and he went to bed at about
(5) Was the ketoacidosis, in 2003, the first
serious affect of his diabetes, apart from the hypos?
No, in 1972 he
started having haemorrhages in his eyes, and he lost the sight in one eye. And he had a lot of laser treatment, and
they‘ve managed to save some of the sight in his other eye. He‘s still got... he‘s got a little sight in
that eye now.
In 1972 - I‘m
just trying to do the maths - he was forty seven-ish. How did it affect his life, this loss of
Well, because he‘d
got one good eye, it didn‘t affect him that much. He had to stop driving, and that was… he
didn‘t like that, but that was... He coped
very well with it. He‘s got little sight
now... a little bit of sight, which he still manages quite well.
How did his loss
of sight affect you?
Well, it made me
the driver! I have to do all the driving,
but apart from that, it didn‘t really affect me at all. It does now, because, when we‘re out, he can
only see what‘s straight in front of him. He‘s got no peripheral vision, and so he can‘t see anything that‘s
either side of him, so I have to guide him about a bit, when we‘re out.
(6) What impression have you had of the health
service, over the years that you‘ve been married?
Well, it‘s been
very good; we‘ve got no complaints at all about the health service. He‘s always been well looked after - we both
have - and so I can‘t complain about the health service at all. Well, we go to Leicester Royal to the diabetic
clinic, and they‘ve got very good doctors there. And they‘ve now got specialist nurses that I
can ring if I‘ve got any problems, and, you know, they‘ve looked after him very
well. And they‘ve changed his insulin
now to a pen, and he has no hypos now, on this new insulin, which is very good
for both of us. And that‘s about it,
Well, you said
that you woke yourself between two and three in the morning. How many years did that go on for?
Well, more or
less ever since we were married, until he changed his insulin last year. It was a long time, and it‘s very nice, now,
to be able to sleep through the night and not have to wake up. They did try him on one - a different sort to
what he‘s got now - and his blood sugar kept going up, rising; went up quite a
lot. And so, he stopped... he went back
onto... He went into the hospital with
this... He had the ketoacidosis twice,
actually, but the second time wasn‘t as bad as the first. But when he went back in with the second lot,
they changed him back onto his old insulin. And then, last year, they‘d said that they weren‘t making any more of
that insulin, so he went onto the pens, but a different sort - it was a
different insulin - and that‘s been marvellous. The old insulin that he was on was pork Actrapid and Insulatard, and
then it was changed to the pens, and it‘s NovoRapid, and I can‘t think of the
So, coming off
pork insulin, a year ago, made a big difference?
Yes, it did. It made a vast difference to us both, because
I‘m not worried now about hypos, and I can sleep at night.
(7) So, how big a part of your life has been
played by your husband‘s diabetes?
Well, quite a
big part, really, because you‘ve always got to be aware of time: meal-times and,
you know, the times for his injections. And you have to get into a routine and stick to it, because the times
are very important. When I was at work,
I used to occasionally get fetched out of work, because he was in a hypo at
work. And they would just send for the
ambulance, and we‘d go off to the hospital.
But you still
told me that most of the time he was well.
Yes. Apart from the diabetes, there was nothing -
up to 1972 - there was nothing else wrong; he was quite well. And then his eyes started to deteriorate, and…
But his general health has always been
How would he
manage his diabetes without you?
Well, probably he‘d
manage his diabetes all right, but his food - food-wise - he can‘t cook. And I often ask him how he would manage without
me, and he said he didn‘t think he‘d be able to. But we‘ve got a daughter who lives around the
corner, and he always says "Pat‘ll look after me"! One weekend a year, I go out with some
friends, and we went, last weekend, to Exmouth for the weekend. And he goes to me daughter‘s, round the
corner, for his meals, and she looks after him. And so, that‘s my one weekend of the year when I‘m completely without