Jean Duddridge receives Alan Nabarro medal for living with diabetes for over 50 years

At our Christmas Lunch in December Jean Duddridge, one of our long-standing members, was presented with the Alan Nabarro medal for living with diabetes for over 50 years by Diabetes UK.  She gave us an inspiring speech which we would like to share with you.  It is an inspiration for other members:

“I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on my 27th birthday in 1967. I was admitted to Putney Hospital for two weeks while my diabetes was controlled, and I was shown how to self-manage my diabetes care.

While I was there a young doctor advised me to read ‘The diabetic Life Its Control by Diet and Insulin’ by R.D.Lawrence who along with H.G. Wells set up the British Diabetic Association.  As a result, I learnt at the very beginning of my diabetic journey the importance of good diabetic control and the dangers of serious complications.  The book left a lasting impression on me. 

I was then referred to Kings College Hospital, one of the best diabetic clinics in the country at that time. I will always be grateful to them for the excellent care and support I received. I am especially grateful for their help and expertise in the safe delivery of my second son.

After moving to Devon in 1972 my diabetes was overseen by the local GP practice for several years. In the 1980s I transferred to the new Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital under the supervision of Professor Tooke and his team they made some changes to my diabetic care including changing my insulin regime to four injections a day which improved my lifestyle considerably. I was given a lot of help and advice by Jean Sykes the senior diabetic nurse.

At that time, I also joined the British Diabetic Association (BDA) and the local Exeter branch chaired by Joan Wheeler OBE and I was invited to join the committee, which I served on for the next 25 years.

In 1991 my husband, Michael, took early retirement and we decided to take this opportunity to put on our walking boots and get walking. We started with the South West Coastal Footpath one day a week and topped up with walks on Dartmoor and monthly rambles with our retirement group.

Around this time, we found a very good trekking company who introduced us to the exciting prospect of seeing the world in most unusual ways. The first trek was to the Alpujarras and Sierra Nevada Mountains in Spain mostly walking along old mule tracks. The following year we travelled to Turkey and trekked through the Taurus Mountains to Lake Egridir in a heat wave!

In 1994 on my 54th birthday I realised that I had reached another milestone. For the first 27 years of my life I had lived without diabetes and the second half with diabetes and I felt this had to be celebrated.  What better way than to realise my childhood ambition to visit Peru and hike the Inca Trail to the lost city of Machu Pichu. Friends and family kindly sponsored us, and we managed to raise £727.27 for DIRECT (The Diabetes Research and Education Trust).

After our exciting adventure in Peru we followed up with a trekking or hiking holiday each year including trips to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, a circuit of Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus Mountains in Russia, this last trip was probably our worst dogged by bad weather and worsening political situation.

Not daunted by this, the following year we went to Alaska to hike and then to the deserts and canyons of Utah and Arizona including the Grand Canyon.  Next came Costa Rica in Central America and the Kaligandaki and part of the Annapurna circuit in Nepal.

On my 60th birthday we trekked the Mont Blanc circuit of 100 miles together with about 10,000m of climbs and descents.  Starting in Chamonix in France, through Switzerland and Italy we finished back in Chamonix. Visiting our family in Tasmania the next year we took the opportunity to hike around and to climb Cradle Mountain and included a 3-day hike in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park.  We followed this up with hiking in Chile.

The 40th year of my living with diabetes we embarked on our last big walking trip: hiking in the 3 main mountain ranges of Cuba.  A fascinating trip which combined trekking and an insight into the real Cuban Culture. The highlight of this holiday was the visit to the Sierra Maestra where we hiked to Fidel Castro’s jungle hideout and rebel camp from where they planned the 1959 revolution. After leaving the camp we continued onwards along a trail to Pico Torquiono, Cuba’s highest mountain (6,470ft). The trail was both exciting and beautiful taking us over a mountain range of peaks and descents before we reached the summit. With no view we quickly had a group photo taken and made our way down to sea level.  With the support of DIRECT we managed to raise over £3,300 for Professor Andrew Hattersley and his team of researchers into Neonatal diabetes at the University of Exeter Medical School.

Since then we have continued to travel around the world but at a slower pace and using hotels rather than tents!  Without my wonderful husband Michael who has always been prepared to go along with me on these adventures I would not have contemplated or tackled some of these trips but with his support and that of my family we have been able to achieve some of my ambitions together, but not all.

Since I was diagnosed in 1967 there have been massive strides made to improve the care of people living with diabetes and I have been very fortunate to have benefitted from many of these developments. I owe a great debt of gratitude to the medical profession, to research and to charities like Diabetes UK and to my husband, family and friends.

Now I am working toward the 60 year medal in 2027!