Medal given to Northampton woman who has had diabetes for 70 years

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A DIABETIC woman from Northampton has been presented with a medal to mark 70 years of coping with the condition.

When Grace Jarnell was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes while aged 12 in 1942, treatment was so basic she had to heat her own samples at home over a Bunsen burner to see if she needed insulin.

Now, more than 100,000 injections later, she has defied the worst fears of doctors and been awarded a medal in recognition of seven decades of coping with the condition.

Mrs Jarnell, aged 82, of Weston Favell, said: “When I was diagnosed, there was a war on, so putting someone on a special diet was very difficult; you just didn’t have the range of food.

“They had priority rations for certain types of people so the doctors put me on three times the special rations to get the food groups I needed.”

Medical science has progressed so much now that Type 1 diabetes, although potentially serious, can be easily managed with new strains of synthetic insulin.

Back in the 1940s however, Mrs Jarnell remembers her family being devastated when they were told. She was admitted to hospital to stabilise her and to try to find out how much insulin she would need.

After five weeks, she was allowed home and had to start injecting herself with insulin.

But at the time there were no home blood tests for the condition. She had to mix drops of her own urine with a special solution in a test tube and heat it over a Bunsen burner, with its colour determining if she needed an injection or not. She said: “Things have come such a long way that it is much, much easier now.

“The care I’ve received from the National Health Service has been second to none. I have had to inject myself four times a day since I was 12 . You don’t think so at the time, but you get used to it. It has never held me back.”

Mrs Jarnell was last night presented with Diabetes UK Northampton’s first JJR McLeod medal, named after one of the scientists who discovered insulin in 1921, to mark 70 years with the condition.

Sandra Attwood, secretary of Diabetes UK Northampton, said: “Some people told they have diabetes think it’s the end of the world.

“We want them to look at Grace and see nothing could be further from the truth.”