Fifty-one years with diabetes hasn’t been easy, but Douglas Padgham is now so used to managing it that it’s part of his daily routine.
The 83 year old from Castlemaine was among 47 Victorians who on Tuesday received a Kellion Victory Medal, for having lived with the condition for over 50 years.
It helps that technology has improved radically since Mr Padgham was diagnosed in 1967.
Diabetes was not the death sentence it had been 50 years earlier, but managing the disease was a time consuming and exacting process.
Mr Padgham could test his blood sugar just once a day, with urine strips which gave just a rough guide.
His diet had to be carefully controlled to keep his blood sugar at the correct level. To do this, he had to eat all his meals exactly on time, and weigh all his carbohydrate.
His wife Beverly recalls the tough time they faced: boiling needles on the stove and managing Mr Padgham’s diet, all while looking after one, two and later three young children.
“It was very hard to start off with because we had a very young family... it was urine tests, you had to really concentrate it and make sure everything was right,” she said.
“It’s changed so much over the years. Our son’s just been diagnosed with it, and it’s just so much easier nowadays.”
With Mrs Padgham, Mr Padgham has lived at Castlemaine for 53 years.
Born in Box Hill, he worked as a builder, before studying teaching. He was sent to teach at Daylesford, where he met Mrs Padgham.
Soon, he was promoted to Castlemaine Technical College.
It was while living in Castlemaine that Mr Padgham was diagnosed at the age of 33.
He had experienced the classic symptoms of Type 1 diabetes: frequent urination, weight loss and thirst.
He wasn’t too surprised by the diagnosis though, his mother had also had the disease.
Initially, he managed it successfully with oral tablets until a holiday in Queensland.
After eating a fair bit of tropical fruit, Mr Padgham returned to find he had developed eye problems due to elevated blood sugar.
He was then put on insulin, which he has used to manage the disease since.
Meals have been one of the main challenges of life with diabetes for Mr Padgham. Having to eat at specific times has often been stressful when out and about with other people.
He has been lucky to escape most complications, beyond the retinopathy that has reduced his eyesight.
Read more: Coming face to face with diabetes
Mr Padgham taught at Castlemaine Technical College, until his retirement in 1991.
Since then, he has spent much of his time in his garden, also helping with the ‘Dad’s Army’ responsible for the maintenance of the Uniting Church.
He credits his longevity to care taken with diet and medication.
”I suppose the fact that I’ve had the resistance to say ‘right, I must have a certain amount to eat for each meal’,” he said.
“It’s part of everyday life now.”
Mrs Padgham agreed, in the large part, joking his good health is down to:
“Good management, and good guidance by his wife.”