When Isobel Hall was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 19 she feared the worst. Her older sister had died of the condition in South Africa. Now, 60 years on and a Kellion Victory Medal award winner, she reflects on the highs and lows of managing a chronic condition and how technology has significantly improved her diabetes care.
When 19-year old Isobel Hall started showing symptoms of type one diabetes her older sister Margaret was alarmed. Just thirteen years earlier their other sister, Phyllis, had died tragically from undiagnosed diabetes at boarding school in South Africa.
Fear gripped Isobel. Would she meet the same fate as her sister, Phyllis?
Her family doctor confirmed their worse fears, a terrible blow to her mother. “She was visibly upset” Isobel recalls.
That was in the early 1960s. Today, Isobel is proud of how far she has come with her management of the condition.
“I currently use the freestyle Libre sensor which allows me to test my blood [glucose levels] as often as I need” she says. “Years ago, we only did urine tests with a test tube and Bunsen Burner.”
“We got weekly blood tests at our local doctors. The syringes we used were the glass ones with cc measurements – Mistakes were often made.”
This year, she has decided to nominate for a Kellion Victory Award medal which marks living with diabetes more than 50 years.
“It’s been a long learning journey” she says. “I am grateful for the help, assistance and advice that is available in Australia.”
That is not to suggest that living with a chronic condition has not been difficult.
“[I wish people] would be aware of what diabetes actually involved and what was needed in the treatment of it,” she says.
The biggest challenge for Isobel is controlling hypoglycaemia known as hypos. This is when blood glucose levels drop below 4mmol/L or the person experiences noticeable hypoglycaemia symptoms like sweating, dizziness, trembling, tiredness or hunger.
“The [libre] sensor and regular checks is key” she says. “I’m currently getting used to navigating my way around the App CalorieKing.” Isobel says she is delighted at how easy it is to share her data with doctors and dieticians.
Isobel is very active in the day-to-day running of her home. She lives with her daughters, one of whom fosters a twenty-one year old living with autism and is heavily involved with the care for her other grandchildren.
She is also involved in her local community.
“I do craft weekly and have a weekly ladies church group who meet in our home or in these COVIDSafe times via video chat,” she says.
“I love crossword puzzles and enjoy doing Take 5 and That’s Life weekly competitions and each day I compare answers with my 91 year old sister.”