Volunteers and birthdays – by Richard Lane
Since my last blog on 15 September, I have had a particularly busy but incredibly enjoyable and fulfilling time. Whatever function I have been to, I have marvelled at the work of our wonderful and ever-increasing band of volunteers, particularly at their enthusiasm to become even more involved, with for instance Diabetes Watch and Diabetes Voices. Diabetes UK are very pleased at the encouraging number of people who have signed up to both, but of course, we will always want and need more! So, if you haven’t already signed up, you know what to do!
I have attended and participated in the highly successful Northern Ireland, Northern & Yorkshire and South East regions’ Volunteers’ Conferences, and will shortly be doing so at the London and the North West regions’ events too. I chaired the South West region’s Professionals’ Conference in Exeter, which was a truly excellent event in every way, finishing with an inspiring presentation by Debra Searle MBE, who has rowed across the Atlantic (on her own!), and has undertaken several other extraordinarily challenging feats as well. If you can believe it, I was speechless at the end!
I have spoken about diabetes and Diabetes UK at the weekly Assembly of St Olave’s School in Orpington, the second-highest-ranking State Secondary School in the country, with 950 students present along with a good number of the staff, and attended the Diabetes UK Research Up-Date for major donors at the Wellcome Collection.
I spent three days in Gibraltar, as a guest of the Gibraltar Health Authority and Diabetes Gibraltar, which I helped to relaunch by speaking to the hospital staff and then to a very well-attended public meeting. I was extremely well looked after, and even had time to introduce myself to the famous Barbary apes, although they didn’t seem to know who I was! Seriously, I had a wonderful time there, and wish the Trustees/Committee every success. It was very humbling for me to see what they (Diabetes Gibraltar and the Health Authority/Government) are trying to achieve with such incredibly limited resources, but they have enormous determination and drive, and will succeed, I know.
In addition, and perhaps most memorably, I travelled firstly to Alloway in Ayr, Scotland and then to Hartfield in Sussex, to meet two incredibly special ladies.
The first was celebrating her 80th birthday at a party organised by our Scotland office in Glasgow at the Brig o’Doon House Hotel, but more importantly, she has been treated with insulin for over 78 years! She was amazing and very much enjoyed her party, which was attended by a good number, including the local MSP and local dignitaries, her consultant and other HCPs, members of Diabetes UK’s staff from Glasgow including Jane-Claire Judson, Stephen Fyfe and Allan Kirkwood, and a good number of family and friends. It was a real privilege to be there!
The second lady is 81½ years old, and has been on insulin for between 80 and 81 years! We are currently trying to establish exactly how long, but we are having difficulty in doing so. She was first treated with insulin by Dr Banting in Toronto, and then, on her return to England at the age of 7 to be educated, at King’s College Hospital in London by Dr RD Lawrence and then by Professors David Pike and Peter Watkins, before her care was transferred to Tunbridge Wells where Dr Dennis Barnes now looks after her. Sadly she has recently had to have an amputation, but is remarkably cheerful and resilient, and just wants the chance to return to work as a cardiology technician.
In the next few days, I will be speaking in Scarborough at a joint NHS/Diabetes UK Scarborough Voluntary Group event and to a very large number of DSNs from all over Europe in Leverkusen. What a hard life I have! Then I am going to the High Peaks Self-Support Group in Buxton to present a Nabarro Medal and to celebrate the Group’s 25th anniversary, followed by the London region’s London Bridges Walk, and then speeches to The Old Mutual Insurance Company and the Financial Services Authority, both to celebrate World Diabetes Day.
I love every second I spend supporting Diabetes UK, and people with diabetes and their carers, and look forward to reporting back on these and other events in the diary.
With very best wishes to you all,