In the shadow world between life and death, the young girl could hear voices coming from afar. One voice sounded urgent, the other placating. The woman with the child must wait her turn.

“This child needs to see a doctor urgently”, a man interrupted. “You go first. Take my spot”, he said to the stricken woman.

A locum was on this week, a doctor that neither mother or daughter had seen before. They had been to the clinic a number of times already this month. The little girl was normally interested in adult conversations, but not this time. The child could barely keep her eyes open or sit up. “Can you do a wee for me?” the doctor asked the listless child. “I don’t feel like it”, the little girl responded, giving lie to her mother’s assertions about the child’s constant thirst and need to urinate.

The doctor turned to my mother. “I know a pediatrician in Parramatta. I’ve rung his office and he will see you as soon as you get there. Go straight there. Don’t delay”, he said.

The woman was relieved that someone was finally taking her seriously. She propped up the lolling child on the front seat of the car. Her daughter’s breathing was shallow. The mother’s gut wrenched with fear.

******

They finally arrived at Dr Vines’ rooms. The woman carried her daughter into the doctor’s rooms. The child was light as a feather, barely there, barely conscious. They were quickly ushered in.

The doctor’s office was bathed in a warm, golden light, afternoon light, and the air smelt of leather. Doctor and mother exchanged some preliminary information but there was scarcely any time for the mother to sit down before the doctor was helping her to her feet again. “Your daughter has Type 1 diabetes”, he said. He seemed to know that without examining the child. The child exuded a sickly sweet smell. “She’s very ill. You must take her to the hospital straight away, the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in Camperdown. I could call an ambulance to take her but that will take too long. Drive to the main entrance. The emergency team will be waiting for you there.”

The woman started to panic. She was alone with a dying child and a long journey ahead on unfamiliar roads in busy traffic.

******

The doctor was as good as his word. There were people waiting for the woman as she pulled in. “You go find a park”, another doctor said to my mother, as they whisked me away. “We are taking your daughter straight to Intensive Care. We will meet you there.”

******

I recently asked my mother about the events of that day and the days after. I wanted to know who my doctor was, what date I was diagnosed, etc. “Why do you want to know all this stuff, Trace?” she asked. “I can’t remember. I don’t want to remember. I thought you were going to die in my arms in the car, and in hospital, we didn’t know if you were going to make it.”

I replied that I needed to know this information because it was 50 years ago that I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and I wanted to apply for the Kellion Victory Medal. Apart from my family, saving the planet and a cure for Type 1 diabetes, the Kellion Victory Medal is the only thing I’ve really wanted in my life. All Australians who have been living with diabetes for 50 years or more are eligible for the Kellion Award.

The Kellion Victory Medal was the idea of Dr Alan Stocks, who first put a proposal for the award to Diabetes Australia. For a brief time, at another very shitty time of my diabetes life in the 1980s, I was a patient of Dr Stocks. I was in my early 20s at the time. Dr Stocks was one of the few endocrinologists I’ve really liked, although I do recall liking Dr Vines very much. Dr Stocks told me about the Kellion Medal for those who made it to the 50 year mark. I also remember him saying that I should try to find myself a nice husband because it could save my life. This seemed a pretty odd thing to say to a 20 year old. I think he said that because he attributed his remarkable success in managing his own Type 1 diabetes to his beloved. Apparently there is now also a Kellion Award for carers, and rightly so.

Anyway, Diabetes Australia apparently needs some corroborating evidence, including a date of diagnosis, which of course, I don’t have. The only thing I have is my story. I know I was diagnosed in 1972. Between the two of us, my mother and I figured out that my diagnosis was probably later in the year, because I have photos of a very chubby me in the 1971/1972 summer, while towards the end of the year, photos show that I was very thin. Sometime in 1972, I caught measles and then was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes shortly after that. I believe my specialist’s name was Dr Robert Vines. I can still remember the smell of his office. It is probably not enough information, but I sure would like that award.

As my mother said to me recently, “You know, Trace, we didn’t have Dr Google in those days. No-one knew anything about diabetes. I had no-one. It was frightening.”

Once again, my father was pretty useless, but that’s another story.

Thank goodness that impressive young locum was on that day. Thank goodness for Dr Vines.

51 thoughts on “50 Years Ago

      1. Oh good! I’ve just looked at the application form and it appears you can just do the best you can with info and then they try to work from that so I’m feeling real optimistic it’ll all work out!

        Liked by 3 people

  1. Fifty years. Tracy, that is remarkable. And your very own doctor was the one who started the award. Hopefully, there are still some paper records that can provide the information needed for you to receive this award. I hope so!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You tell your story so well…and we are all grateful you are here! I am sure your chances of winning the medal are not too small. If you can write your story down in the application form, (sometimes they are too narrow…) they will know how much you deserve that medal! Fingers crossed ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good luck with the application, Tracy.

    Your story is similar to my best friend’s story with their youngest daughter’s rush to the E.R. some 23(?) years ago. She has successfully had 2 babies whilst living with this autoimmune disorder now and thriving with a supportive partner and family.

    Diabetes I is not easy for a young child to cope with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems to be quite a typical story, Vicki. It is not easy for anyone to cope with. I have certainly had lots of challenges throughout the years and it never seems to get any easier. I have two children too. That was a huge challenge without the benefit of continuous glucose monitoring that is available these days. It is definitely not easy for partners. Mine has a sleep disorder as a result of being on hyper-alert all night. It might be discriminatory but I tell my children never to get involved with someone with Type 1 diabetes. They’ve had a lifetime of it already but love is love and what happens, happens.

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  4. You know it’s only been a year and half and though I remember most of the details, there are some I want to forget. I can empathize with your mom. She is a very brave and inspiring person ( at least for me) and I do hope and pray that you get this medal for yourself and her and even though we have no medals here, I hope my son will live for fifty years and more with diabetes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad I finally had this conversation with my mother, Punam. We take many things for granted. I certainly did not reflect much on what it must have been like for her when I was younger. I hope your son has this conversation with you one day.
      We now have greatly subsidised CGM in Australia, Punam. It has made such a difference to my quality of life. I hope one day that these sort of tools are subsidised for T1Ds in India. It makes it so much easier to reach that 50 year goal.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I too am so glad you did, Tracy. My son and I often have conversations about it, more so because I don’t want him to bottle it inside him. But he certainly doesn’t want to visit that hospital. My daughter had her appendectomy there in July and was hospitalized for a couple of days. He refused to visit her.
        CGM has certainly made our life easier. T1D is not covered by any medicine insurance here and I doubt if it will be in future. Still, we will do what we can for him.
        Here’s to your longevity and his and of other T1Ds! 🥂❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It is still fresh in your minds but I am hugely impressed with how you’ve dealt with all is the challenges. I hope your daughter is recovering well, Punam. I don’t know how close to the hospital you are but if it is not far maybe you could walk past it a couple of times building up to entering the building to teach his body and brain to be more relaxed.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. My daughter is fine, Tracy, thank you.
        The hospital is about 15 mins drive from our place. That’s a good idea. Will drive past it whenever we are headed in that direction. Thanks. 🙂

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  5. So much courage, and so much luck…

    The hospital would have archived the paper records. But who knows, your vivid story alone may convince Diabetes Australia. Are there any details that you can recall that would situate the events in time? What sort of car did your mother drive, for instance?

    Good luck, Tracy. It’s no small victory.

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    1. Thanks, Diana. We know the year but substantiating it is rather more difficult. I don’t have photos with dates written on the back.
      Some hospitals digitise their old paper records before they destroy the old files but my records would have been destroyed way before that technology was available.
      We had one car. A panel van. No back seats. Just a mattress. I am sure we had that car before my sister was born. We didn’t get rid of that car until we moved to Canberra!

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