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The Friday Six: Six Photos from the Discovery of Insulin.

Twenty four years ago, diabetes became part of my life and with it came these vials of bandaid-scented insulin and a potluck of syringes.  Diagnosed in 1986, I came in just as at-home blood sugar monitoring was becoming common and well into the age of disposable insulin syringes.

What I didn't realize was how different life would have been, were I diagnosed sixty-four years earlier.  How my life wouldn't have had nearly the quality it has now, nor the length.  Because if I were diagnosed sixty some odd years earlier, I wouldn't have had access to lifesaving insulin. 

Insulin is not a cure.  That's for certain.  But it is a way of keeping myself alive, until such time that there's a better option.  (See also: hurry up, researchers)  While I was in New York this past weekend, I had a chance to check out the Breakthrough:  The Dramatic Story of the Discovery of Insulin at the New York Historical Society with some of the local diabetes crew.  (Thanks for arranging the guided tour, Allison!)  And it really was incredible to see just how far we've come in such a short time. 

Here's a few thousand words about the exhibit:

This is a shot of a boy before he had access to insulin and then an "after" photo, where he happily describes himself as a "little fat boy."

A quote from Mary Tyler Moore about how diabetes becomes just part of the fabric of our lives.  (And no, that is not a plug for cotton.)

I thought this photo (of a photo) was amazing, because it's a pile of dog pancreases in the background, and then the resulting vial of insulin in the foreground.  Yes, that's how many dog pancreases it took to score one vial of insulin back in the day. 

One of the first insulin pumps.  Wicked old school.

And one last shot of a very old insulin pump.  (I wonder what the "H" stood for - "Hug-a-Diabetic?")

If you're in the NYC area and have a chance to check out this exhibit, I highly recommend it.  It's amazing to see how far we've come.  (And for those of you keeping track at home, the sixth photo is from earlier in the week, of the meet up group!) 


I didn't take picutres when I was there. I wish I had. But the exhibit was so eye opening. I especially loved the Wall-O-Insulin Vials. :) I looked for all the ones I could remember using.

Wow, that first picture of that little boy is so sad. I can't imagine how desperate his parents felt or how happy they felt when they found insulin. Amazing exhibit!

Looking forward to seeing it next month! Thanks for sharing some pictures.

I saw your tweet about an insulin exhibit and said, "Huh?"

Insulin exhibit? Rows of epipens?

But this was interesting. Every discovery has a gruesome history. All those dog pancreases, for instance! (Psst: If you don't tell PETA, I won't.)

I hope they find a cure soon. Also, for spinal cord injuries and brain injuries. Work faster, scientists!

all my 9 yo could say about the old insulin pumps was "whoa...wow"

I really hope this exhibit travels, I would love to visit it

I'm glad you were able to make it!

I agree with Andrea. I do hope that it travels to other cities. I would love to see this exhibit. What is sad is all the people before us that never had a chance for survival.

Thanks so much for sharing.

The medical breakthroughs are absolutely amazing. Seeing how far they've come really casts an appreciation for where they are.

umm totally calling my pump the betatron from now on :) "guys wait, i forgot my betatron in my room"
"yeah i'll be right there, i just have to change my betatron site real quick"

I've had diabetes for over 46 years...fortunate to have always had insulin with my boiled needles (thanks mom), was a strip/urine tester ....so very accurate (hehe), and disgusting. No disposable syringes, no meters, no pumps. My first meter was about the size of a light- weight brick.....the old days. Hopefully there will be a cure in your lifetime, doubtful for mine.......

I wish that had opened a wee bit earlier...I would have totally been there in August.

I had a Betatron II pump, in about 1984 or 85 (7th and 8th grades, the joy)! I wore it on an ugly, gross foam belt especially fit for the ugly black leather case it fit into. My mom cut apart some of my dresses into tops and skirts so that I could wear pretty dresses along with that heavy, ugly pump. Whew. I'll have to remind her and thank her when she comes to visit for T-Giving next week. Thx for the memories... >;) I love my Ping, and Dex, so much!

Fascinating. Thanks for sharing this exhibit information. I've recently signed on to your blog and have found myself tear-filled with almost every entry of yours received so far, including today's. It's really moving to see from these photos how far we've come, and knowing how far we've still to go. (I was diagnosed in 1986 also.)

I would love to see "The Dramatic Story of the Discovery of Insulin at the New York Historical Society". As I look forward to receiving my 50 year medal from Joslin next week I am very thankful for any and all information about diabetes
that gets to the rest of the non diabetic world.
In 1968 I was let go from a job with GraybaR Electric, a company with 240 distribution centers, because I was a diabetic.
We have come a long way.

Thank you for sharing these pictures with us!

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