16 Jul National Diabetes Week | Pt 2 | Dorothy Robertson
Dorothy Robertson was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes 62 years ago, this week, at the age of 16 and it’s fair to say technology has come a long way.
“I grew up in Maldon and our house had no electricity or hot water. We had to boil the glass syringes and needles and sterilise them in methylated spirits,” Dorothy said.
“Testing for sugar in those days was by testing urine – there were no blood glucose metres back then. Now I have a sensor on my arm and scan it with a meter to find out the carbohydrate reading. It is painless and gives the finger a break from the pricks.
“It has changed so much. There was no support back in those days…there was very little knowledge of diabetes, nowhere to get help and I was told very little.”
Dorothy, 78, now lives with her husband Gordon on their hobby farm in South Purrumbete and shared her story to help raise awareness during National Diabetes Week.
“When I was 16 and a half, I became very tired, had no energy, was drinking large amounts of fluid and was passing lots of fluid,” she said.
“I was diagnosed very quickly. I was given a glucose liquid to drink and asked to come back shortly after. The doctor tested my urine and diagnosed me with Type 1.
“I hadn’t heard of diabetes before and did not feel very good…I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I was admitted to the Maldon hospital to be stabilised and to learn how to give the injections and look after myself.”
Dorothy said there was a long list of foods she wasn’t allowed to eat and those she could eat she had to weigh to calculate as best as possible how much insulin she needed.
“Over the years the medical progress has been amazing. We went from urine testing to blood glucose, then the insulin pumps and pen delivery systems. The introduction of disposable syringes and needles was a great improvement and the National Diabetes Services Scheme,” she said.
“I met Gordon in 1961 and we married in 1963. We operated a dairy farm at Simpson, had three sons and adopted a daughter in 1972.
“My diabetes didn’t stop us doing anything, but I would often get very tired and for a while there I had quite a lot of ‘hypos’ and ended up in hospital.”
Dorothy explained that a ‘hypo’ was a hypoglycemic condition that occurred when her sugar was too low and she lost consciousness.
“That’s really when I rely on Gordon. I have to give him a lot of thanks…it is difficult at times. If I’m unconscious he has to force a barley sugar under my tongue, or if I’m really unwell we have a Glucagon HypoKit, which is an injection to bring me around.
“When we were busy on the farm with the children I didn’t look after myself well enough and there was a stage I was having hypos nearly every week and all hours of the morning.
“These days we’re much better at looking after me. I have to rely on the science, because I don’t really feel it when things aren’t right…Gordon is more likely to see it than me.”
Dorothy said she had some eye issues and a small kidney issue that were part of living with diabetes, but for the most part she had lived a healthy, normal life.
Ingrid Rial, as featured last week in our 2020 Year of the Nurse/Midwife series, is TDHS’s Diabetes Educator. To make an appointment, please contact 03 5558 6000.