NHS campaigner Jan's medal for 60 years on insulin
- Credit: Polly Hancock
An Islington resident has been awarded the Robert Lawrence medal by Diabetes UK for living on insulin for 60 years.
Jan Pollock, a 71-year-old former history teacher, was first diagnosed with diabetes when she was 10 years old and has depended on insulin for the last six decades to keep her healthy.
According to research by Diabetes UK, around one in 15 people in the UK currently have diabetes.
This means they are unable to produce enough of the hormone insulin to regulate the way their body uses and stores fat and glucose, often requiring daily insulin injections.
Following her diagnosis, Ms Pollock spent a large amount of time in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, where she was first administered insulin.
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“I loved the hospital and all the nurses” she said. “All the doctors came around my bed and applauded me after my first injection. I thought I was the bee’s knees.
“There weren’t many of us children with diabetes, so I thought I must be wonderful with all the nurses applauding me and treating me as kindly as they did. For my first specialist, I was his first diabetic to go to university and he was absolutely thrilled.”
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Her close engagement with the NHS led her to join the Islington Community Health Council in 1984 and ever since, she has been a campaigner for her local union and the healthcare services.
Of her campaign work, she said “People don’t realise how much privatisation goes on within the NHS. If you are an insulin-dependent diabetic, you cannot afford to not have NHS support. It enabled me to continue teaching and to lead a fit and healthy life.”
The medal is named after Dr Robert Lawrence, the UK’s first prominent diabetes physician and a co-founder of Diabetes UK.
While Jan was told of her award during the first lockdown, she was unable to receive the medal until the Diabetes UK team had returned to their offices.
“I hope this medal encourages other diabetics to look after themselves. I’ve led a healthy life with my diabetes and I want other diabetics to feel that they can do so too," she said.