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2015 Kellion Medal

60 years

Presented at 62nd Annual General Meeting of The Diabetic Association of South Australia Inc. Tuesday 27 October 2015, 10.00am at Diabetes SA, 159 Sir Donald Bradman Drive, Hilton SA 5033. Click here to download a copy of the printed booklet.

Diabetes SA is proud to announce the Kellion Victory Medal Recipients for 2014/2015, including:

John Balnaves

john-balnavesI am a sixty two year old male and have had diabetes since the age of two. It was hypothesised that I may have developed the disease at an early age because of the onset of nephritis (kidney disease) when I was only six months old which the doctors thought may have triggered off my diabetes. lt was also suggested that it was caused through a genetic aberration, which was the most popular view, but to this day no one really knows how it came about.

ln my very early years I use to test my urine with Benedix Solution. This solution was blue in colour but when heated in a test tube over a small methylated spirits burner it use to change colour depending on the amount of glucose in the urine. I can still remember how "hit and miss" it was in indicating sugar levels in the body compared with today's modern electronic gadgets. I remember when I was "showing nothing" the solution didn't change colour at all but as the glucose levels rose so to did the colour of the solution. The solution use to change colour in stages depending on what you were "showing". A light tan solution indicated a +4 reading which meant that you were well on the way to having a hyperglycaemic attack. lt's quite strange because I've only had one attack that I can remember in my whole lifetime which I think is very good.

This method of testing wasn't very accurate because by the time the urine was tested it didn't show your real blood sugar because it was all "after the event". As you can imagine, you may have been "showing" a very low BSL reading but in actual fact your reading may have been much higher or vice-versa. It really was a "hit and miss" testing procedure but I am more than grateful that it was around because without it shadowy hypoglycaemic attacks may have been the order of the day.

Being a type 1 diabetic – I also remember the bovine and porcine insulin used to manage the disease. I distinctly remember the daily morning injection because it was injected somewhat like using a thick one inch nail into my hind quarters. I still remember the pain when my mother use to have to administer it to me every day. You could imagine the big "hullabaloo" each morning when I use to put on a big act because of the pain, but my mum had to do it and I think that it used to break her heart more than it did mine.

ln the olden days the syringes were stored in a small, rectangular glass bath full of methylated spirits and the needles were thoroughly cleaned after each injection.Today, of course we now use either very thin needles, pens or electronic insulin pumps which have markedly improved the older, painful methods.

As everyone knows, I use to get hypo's regularly because of my age. That was a real bugbear and also dangerous but I'm still here to tell the story. I use to love running, playing football and cricket during my days at school and hypo's were almost a daily occurrence. My teachers quite often had to ring my mother to come and collect me to take me home because they didn't know how to handle the situation. Things of course have changed a lot since those early days with the advent of new devices for controlling the disease more effectively.

My diabetes has at times created problems, but on the upside of that I was a determined child and nothing could stop me. ln about 1983 I completed a Carpentry & Joinery trade certificate and received the Harding & Holden Drafting Award in my final year. Following that I also completed an Architecture Degree at The South Australian lnstitute of Technology and very soon after receiving my degree, completed post graduate studies as a Building Surveyor.

I've worked on many projects throughout my career including the Myer Centre, the much smaller Twin Street Toilets both of which are in Adelaide, and many other large and small projects. If anyone ever asked me whether diabetes has been an encumbrance, I always tell them that it has never been, because I'm also a very ambitious man which has held me in good stead when things did go wrong. lt's not all plain sailing but it depends on your whole attitude. I have always enjoyed talking with younger diabetics about the way in which it affects them, I know that I can give them some real practical advice.

Back to 2014/2015 Kellion Victory Medal Recipients

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