Anyone who has coped with diabetes for 60 years, injecting themselves with insulin every day, deserves a medal, don’t they? And in Vivienne Hartley’s case, that’s exactly what has happened.
Mrs Hartley, 72, was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 12 and believes she was the first person in her home village of Trawden, Lancashire to be put on daily insulin injections.
Now she is the proud holder of a Laurence Medal, awarded by the national charity Diabetes UK to recognise those 60 years.
Nowadays, diabetes sufferers can use a pentype device to dose themselves accurately with insulin to regulate their blood sugar levels, but when Mrs Hartley was a girl there was no alternative to a syringe and needle.
“It was a big glass syringe and a big needle,” recalls Mrs Hartley. “I had to practise with the syringe and an orange to learn how to do it. It was frightening until I got used to it.
“I had to inject it into my leg once a day, and it made the flesh waste away.
“There were things I couldn’t eat, especially those with sugar in. I had to have a cooked breakfast every day, which I liked, and the only breakfast cereal I could eat was corn flakes. I always longed for ice cream, and my doctor, Dr Turner, said I could eat it as long as it was Wall’s and as long as I didn’t have it every day. I don’t know why it had to be Wall’s but I enjoyed it.”
Mrs Hartley grew up coping with her condition and spent her working life as a baker for Colne Co-op, Newman’s at Nelson, Hartley’s at Trawden and finally Park High School.
For many years Mrs Hartley was a member of the local branch of Diabetes UK, and gave advice to new members, until the Burnley and Pendle branch folded several years ago. She says: “I’ve had a busy life, and I tell people that having diabetes isn’t the end of the world. It’s a lot easier for young people to manage than it used to be.
“There are still a lot of people who don’t understand it, though. If someone suffers a hypo while they’re out, they can stagger and look confused, and passers-by can think they’re drunk and don’t help. It’s happened to me and it’s not nice.”