Yesterday Tom Beatson of Phoenix, Arizona celebrated his 72nd anniversary of living with Type 1 diabetes. I’ve been lucky to get to know Tom in recent years through Valley Pumpers, an insulin pump support group that I attend during the winter months in Arizona. Many people in the diabetes community know Tom through Facebook and other online venues. He’s an incredible guy who is always kind, inspirational, smart, and opinionated. Tom has participated in the Joslin 50-year Medalist Program and supports diabetes research through the Joslin Diabetes Center.
If you’d like to learn more about Tom, check out this TuDiabetes interview from January 2013. In this video he and Richard Vaughn (diagnosed in 1945) discussed living with Type 1 diabetes for over 70 years.
Below you will find Tom’s story as he shared it in an email and on Facebook yesterday. I asked Tom if I could post his statement and photo here today and he graciously gave me permission.
With no further ado, here is Tom Beatson in his own words:
“Today is my anniversary. Exactly one year after Pearl Harbor was the first day I was sick with T1D Type 1 Diabetes. I was 10 years old. Two days later Dr. Wright made a house call and decided I needed to be in the hospital. Since my mother didn’t know how to drive, Dr. Wright drove me and my mother to the hospital in his car. Shortly after arriving at the hospital I lapsed into a coma. Of course, insulin saved my life. I don’t have any records or recollections by my parents, but I think I was comatose for several days, and remained in the hospital for a month. That was 72 years ago, in 1942.
Lots of people have asked me how or why I have survived through all these years. I don’t have a magic answer for you. I take one day at a time and do the best I can. It’s been pointed out to me that I have a lot of determination, and that has been very helpful.
Another thing that has been helpful is exercise. When I was about 45 I started riding a bicycle and did that for 35 years. During those years I accumulated 106,000 miles. I have stopped riding currently because of soreness in my lower back, but hope to resume bicycle riding.
Back in the 1940s the insulin pump hadn’t been invented yet, so I used shots every day for 52 years. That was long enough to earn me a 50-year medal. Then in 1995 Dr. Levy started me on the insulin pump. My control has been much better using the pump. I am currently on my fourth pump – the Animas Ping. It was preceded by the Cozmo, 508, and 506. Since I’m on Medicare, they won’t approve a CGM. Their rules are not medically sound. My daily dose ranges between 35 and 45 units of Humalog insulin.
Since I am already 82 I’m not very optimistic about seeing a cure within my lifetime. But I’m keeping a close eye on the Bionic Pancreas that Dr. Ed Damiano is working on at Boston U. His goal is to get FDA approval by 2017, and that’s when I reach 75 years of T1D, so I’m hoping to be able to get a Bionic Pancreas in time for my 75th anniversary.
Unlike some of you who still claim no complications, I’ve been dealing with retinopathy for 50 years. It remained background until about 10 years ago, when one eye became proliferative. And I’ve got kidney problems. But I have no neuropathy and no gastroparesis. My hearing is still good. I’ve had chronic lymphocytic leukemia for 20 years with a white cell count around 60,000 but it never gets high enough for them to treat (80K). And I have colitis.
What was the biggest mistake of my life? I never got married, and have lived alone for more than 50 years.”
Thank you, Tom, and best wishes for many more years of good health with Type 1 diabetes. I’ll give you a call in three years and see how you like your 75th Anniversary gift of a Bionic Pancreas!