In 1921, Frederick Banting and Charlest Best discovered how to make artificial insulin. Prior to this, insulin was a death sentence.
The body needs insulin to use the glucose from the food you eat. When the body doesn’t produce insulin (as in the case of type 1 diabetes — which I’ve had for 20 years), the body starts to break down fat instead. Using fat sounds good at first, but a byproduct of the process is a toxic chemical called ketones. If ketones build up in the system, you can have nausea, vomiting, coma and death. In addition, the build up of glucose in the blood stream causes complications in the kidneys, heart, eyes, and limbs.
For the past 90 years, Eli Lilly has produced insulin. Other pharmaceutical companies, like Sanofi and Novo Nordisk, have also started making different types of insulin.
But despite this amazing discovery, there are still people dying from diabetes because of lack of insulin.
Shocking, right? How can a drug that has been available for nearly a century be unavailable to people who need it? There are a lot of reasons. First, insulin is very expensive, and there are thousands of people with diabetes living in impoverished countries who can’t afford insulin. There are even people in our own country who have a difficult time budgeting for insulin. Insulin is heat-sensitive, and many of the countries that are the most needy are in very warm climates with no refrigeration. There is also a lack of education. Many families are not educated in diabetes and they don’t understand the severity of the disease. They don’t realize how often they or their child needs to take insulin.
These are just some of the reasons why children are dying from diabetes.
But we can do something to help!
The International Diabetes Federation runs a program called Life for a Child. Life for a Child provides insulin as well as other diabetes supplies and education to more than 12,000 impoverished children living in 43 developing countries. Without this help, there is a good chance they would not survive. In some areas, the life expectancy of a child with type 1 diabetes is less than one year.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, my friends in the Diabetes Online Community have has launched the “Spare a Rose, Save a Child” campaign encouraging people to spend the amount they would spend on one rose to save the life of one child. Just five dollars will help support a child for a month. A dozen roses would help a child for a year. The IDF’s goal for 2014 is to raise $10,000!
This is a tangible way that you can make the difference in the diabetes cause. No one should die from diabetes because of lack of insulin. Insulin already exists. It’s here. Now let’s get it to those who need it most. Who knows? Maybe one of these children will someday grow up to find the cure for diabetes.