Diabetics tell of life with condition in bid to raise awareness

'I'VE BEEN LUCKY':  John Lennon, 71, has been living with diabetes for more than 40 years.
'I'VE BEEN LUCKY': John Lennon, 71, has been living with diabetes for more than 40 years.
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WEARSIDERS today spoke of living their lives with diabetes as part of an international day aimed at improving knowledge of the illness.

As part of World Diabetes Day, those with the condition told the Echo how they have had to adapt their lives to dealing with the problems associated with it.

More than three million UK people are diagnosed with diabetes, while an estimated 630,000 have it but don’t yet know they do.

Washington pensioner John Lennon, 71, developed type one diabetes more than 40 years ago.

Since then he has had to learn to live with the condition, injecting insulin each day.

“It was in 1971 that I started showing the classic symptoms,” said John, a former engineer who taught at Gateshead Technical College before retirement. 
“I was drinking a lot, but didn’t realise I was so my system was loaded with sugar.

“My GP sent me to hospital where for a fortnight I was learning how to inject.”

Despite being able to manage his diabetes without experiencing many complications, John, who is married to Val, 72, has had heart bypass surgery and recently developed Charcot Foot, a weakening of the bones.

“For 30-odd years since I’ve had diabetes I’ve been OK, because I haven’t done anything daft and have managed my condition,” added John, who is dad to Joanne, 44, and granddad to Luca, 12, and Evan, 10.

“I’ve had an insulin pump for six years where I learned to use the controls myself.

“But now I have an electronic device which the vials can be attached to, so I’m getting a continuous supply of insulin, day and night.”

John also says that more people need to be made aware of the health complications associated with diabetes. “I always emphasise to people who say ‘I’ve only got type two diabetes’ that it can be just as deadly as type one if you treat it with disdain,” he said.

“I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had no eye or kidney trouble, which are the type of things that diabetes attacks.

“But publicising this issue is paramount and if you have it, it’s always lurking in the back of your mind.”

John’s consultant in diabetes at Sunderland Royal Hospital, Rahul Nayar, said: “It’s a huge worry that so many people don’t know they have diabetes but are showing symptoms of it.

“The NHS needs people to go to their doctor or nurse and have a simple test which will give them the answers.”

Those at risk of having diabetes include those who are overweight, of ethnic origin or those who have history of diabetes in their family.