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2012 Kellion Medal Recipients

50 Years

Sandra Meryl Phillips


Diabetes has come a long way since Sandra was diagnosed back in 1961 at the age of 14. It was not talked about back then, and she didn't know what she was in for.

After taking tablets for two years to manage her diabetes, Sandra was rushed to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, in a coma, after contracting an upper respiratory infection. After coming out of the coma, which lasted four days, she was told that she would have to give herself injections for the rest of her life. It was a shock as Sandra didn't like injections and she had to practice on an orange.

Sandra kept glass syringes and needles in a jar of metholated spirits, then she rinsed them out in cold water. Urine testing was done in a test tube. Then came disposable syringes and clinistix. She now uses the pen which is a lot better when going out dining or to other people's homes. Sandra can now eat straight away and does not have to wait 20 minutes after her injection. She uses a glucometer to test her blood.

Sandra met her husband in 1975 and told him on their first date that she had diabetes. He asked her if she had any information that
he could read relating to diabetes. She gave him a booked called 'So I am a Diabetic'. They married in 1977 and had a beautiful daughter, Megan, in 1979. They now have two lovely grandsons, Zach who is six and Blake who is two. They keep them very busy and are a joy to look after.

Living with type 1 diabetes hasn't always been easy for Sandra, but with the improvement in medical technology and the support of an organisation such as Diabetes SA, it has become more manageable. She hopes that for people with type 1 diabetes there will be even more medical improvements and maybe even a cure in the future.

John Whittenbury


John was diagnosed in 1952 with type 1 diabetes after an operation to straighten his right eye. After a long stay in hospital and a big thank you to his mother, he started
to learn to live as a person with diabetes. The doctors told him that he would not be like other kids, he would be weak, have no energy and that if he married, his kids would probably have diabetes from birth—what a shock!

In the early days a urine test was like working in a forensic lab, with mixing ammonia then boiling the test tube over a naked flame. As well as boiling the glass syringes and needles for insulin. In the 60's things looked better with disposable syringes and easier testing.

After school, John would ride his bike 12 miles there and back from the Northern Hotel where he sold newspapers. In his teens, he joined the Country Fire Service and became a fire official at Mallala. He built and drove his own rally car and is a fire and rescue marshal at rally and race events. He has two sons who are also involved in rally racing.

John still rides a Yamaha 650cc Classic Tourer Motorcycle, races remote control trucks every fortnight and builds and enjoys flying remote control planes. In John's words "Don't let it control you, you control it and live your life to its fullest".

Michael Summers


Fifty years ago, after Michael suffered from a continuous dry throat for a number of weeks, he was told that he should go to see a doctor because he may have diabetes. A sample of urine was taken, and he was diagnosed with diabetes. He was told to go home, pack a bag and be back at the hospital the next day; his visit lasted a week. He was taught about diabetes management; injecting insulin, dietary requirements, taking urine samples and recording results. He still remembers the doctor saying "There is no cure for diabetes, all we can do is prolong your life".

Back in those days free syringes and blood testing machines were unheard of. Michael had to visit a chemist to purchase a glass syringe, a packet of needles and tweezers. Every morning he would dismantle the syringe and along with the needles and tweezers he would place them in a saucepan of water and boil it for about five minutes, then reassemble it all before injecting himself. This was because Michael lived on a rural property with no town water supply. When he was near a town supply, he used a small electric jug designed to warm baby bottles.

People would often say to Michael that sticking to a regular diet would be boring, but he found it easy to accept. A case of do or die. He realised just how much he took for granted eating so called luxury foods, eg. fruit cakes, ice creams, lollies and soft drinks.

Looking back, Michael thought accepting and controlling diabetes was easy because insulin was a natural product, and a change in diet was easy to follow. Michael also believes a good specialist is also the key to success.

Michael had a heart attack and all of his teeth  have been removed. He understands that things could be more serious.

During his early years he spent two years on a working holiday in England and touring the continent. He has also had the privilege of travelling to many Asian and Pacific countries, as well as South Africa.

Michael does not feel his lifestyle has been restricted in any way by diabetes, other than when driving long distances. Michael takes a companion as a safety precaution.

Maureen Turner


Maureen was diagnosed with diabetes, aged seven. Clive, her doctor, told her parents to drive to Adelaide immediately, from the Eyre Peninsula (a six hour drive). Maureen was admitted to the Adelaide Children's Hospital and was tended to by student doctors. She learnt to give injections by practising on an orange. Her parents also learnt to give her the injections; just one a day was required.

Each time Maureen had a specialist appointment, they flew from Port Lincoln to Adelaide and back; a seven hour round trip. Maureen's parents were very supportive.

Maureen studied at Immanuel College for four years; the first diabetic to board at the School. Maureen settled quickly into the morning routine of insulin injections, although a few times she woke at the sick bay after having suffered a hypo. Most of the boarders were envious of her food, when it came to dessert. Maureen always had tinned fruit while the other students had to put up with 'yucky' desserts. Sports were important during Maureen's younger life. She played netball and softball.

After leaving school, Maureen worked in a dressmaking factory for a few years, then moved back home to start her own dressmaking business on Eyre Peninsula. Maureen met her husband during that time, and he has been very supportive of her diabetes. She took part in diabetes trials with the Ashford Research Centre for a few years.

During her married years Maureen had some problems with night hypos. At one stage, she had up to five injections per day. Maureen attended an insulin pump seminar at Diabetes SA in 2006, and has used an insulin pump ever since; she loves it.

Maureen is excited about the change in technology. "The 'gun injection' (Ashton Automatic Injector) was an interesting technique, and I still have the gun in my collection. Fortunately, I have no long term diabetes complications."

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