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Bittersweet: Diabetes, Insulin, and the Transformation of by Chris Feudtner

By Chris Feudtner

One in all medicine's such a lot striking healing triumphs used to be the invention of insulin in 1921. The drug produced outstanding effects, rescuing young ones and adults from the lethal grip of diabetes. yet as Chris Feudtner demonstrates, the following transformation of the affliction from a deadly right into a continual disease is a narrative of good fortune tinged with irony, a revealing saga that illuminates the complicated human effects of clinical intervention. Bittersweet chronicles this heritage of diabetes in the course of the compelling views of people that lived with this ailment. Drawing on a amazing physique of letters exchanged among sufferers or their mom and dad and Dr. Elliot P. Joslin and the employees of physicians at his famed Boston hospital, Feudtner examines the adventure of residing with diabetes around the 20th century, highlighting adjustments in therapy and their profound results on sufferers' lives. even if interested in juvenile-onset, or variety 1, diabetes, the topics explored in Bittersweet have implications for our knowing of adult-onset, or kind 2, diabetes, in addition to a number of alternative ailments that, because of medicines or scientific advances, are being remodeled from acute to power stipulations. certainly, the story of diabetes within the post-insulin period offers an awesome chance for exploring the bigger questions of the way drugs alterations our lives.

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Extra resources for Bittersweet: Diabetes, Insulin, and the Transformation of Illness

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A more engaging picture, albeit suffused with ambiguity and irony, emerges from closer scrutiny of what it has been like for individual patients to live with their diabetes. This view underscores the second major concept illustrated by diabetic patients’ stories: the transformation of the experience of being diabetic over the course of the twentieth century.      Insulin and other treatments not only transmuted diabetes into an evolving biological entity, they also radically altered what it meant to live with this transmuted disease.

14 These photographs and verbal portraits of miraculous therapeutic success present a modern yet mythic account of diabetes history, accentuating the potency of insulin as a heroic wonder drug to rescue patients, vanquish disease, banish suffering, and finally secure an implied but unexamined ‘‘happily-ever-after’’ ending. Mythical storytelling elements such as these permeate much of our current appreciation of other medical technologies. When pharmaceutical companies launch promotional advertising campaigns showing pictures of bald yet smiling cancer survivors; or when proponents of the human genome project speculate how gene therapy will eliminate certain inborn diseases; or when former trauma patients testify how they were saved by the latest radiographic machines that swiftly provide remarkably precise body images; or even when the biotechnology industry shows film clips on television of children spared from blindness due to rice supplemented with vitamin A, these examples of scientific achievement are all presented in the mythical aura of an idealistic quest for a better world.

Ever so gradually, the life Diabetes History  Another of H. Rawle Geyelin’s patients, before starting insulin therapy (left) and after. ’’ expectancy of juvenile patients under his care had improved. And the quality of life of his young patients was not quite as bleak as Dr. Major’s photographs may suggest. These pictures displayed pre-insulin diabetic children who had suffered extreme emaciation, losing – percent of their initial body weight, but such weight loss was not typical. Looking at two samples of children who initially saw Joslin in the years – and in , the first group survived an average of thirty months and during that period lost essentially no weight, while the second group survived for forty-five months after diagnosis and lost an average of only  percent of their initial body weight.

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