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Collingham resident lives with diabetes for almost 60 years

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A village resident has shared her story of living with diabetes for nearly 60 years to help spread awareness ahead of the 100th World Diabetes Day.

Collingham resident, Sheila Purnell, was diagnosed with diabetes when she was just 16 and now 57 years later she is showing people that the disease has not stopped her from having a "happy life."

World Diabetes Day will take place on Sunday 14th November, with this years theme being Access to Diabetes Care.

Sheila Purnell with her Alan Nabarro Medal (52772654)
Sheila Purnell with her Alan Nabarro Medal (52772654)

Over the last few decades Sheila has experienced first hand the changes in technology in regards to diabetes and says she is "a lot better off now" than when she was first diagnosed.

After having regular dizzy spells, Sheila was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1966, and was initially prescribed tablets but these didn't have the hopes for impact and so were swapped for injections.

Sheila said: "When I was 16 it was glass syringes and I had to sterilise them in a kidney bowl with gores and hot water."

For the last 14 years Sheila has been on a regime that requires 4 injections and at least 4 blood tests each day.

Sheila added: "With this regime I can control it rather than it controlling me, as I can just crack on with it."

Her husband, Dave Purnell, added: "It's given her a new lease of life and she can eat what she wants within reason.

"Sheila's had it for 57 years and she is still laughing and joking."

In November 2019, Sheila received the Alan Nabarro Medal, in recognition of having lived with diabetes for more than 50 years.

Sheila said: "I was delighted, I kept going to it and having a look at it thinking is it really mine.

"I was just in awe of it, I'm really proud of it."

In regards to this years World Diabetes Day theme, Sheila has shared her appreciation for all the "fantastic" care she has received, thanking everyone from her doctors and specialist nurses to consultants and pharmacists.

She said: "Accessibility here is fantastic, and there is lot's of support available as they would rather answer my questions then have me in hospital for not asking questions."

The couple are also very impressed with the research surrounding diabetes, especially regarding the modern changes to the syringes, so they look more like pens, and the development of insulin pumps.

Whilst Sheila has decided not to have a pump, as she is happy with the regime she is on, the pair can see its benefits for the younger generations who do not have Sheila's experience with measuring doses and carefully calculating meals.

Dave added: "The technology and research has come very far, and in time they will beat it."

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