By Chris Feudtner
One in all medicine's so much awesome healing triumphs used to be the invention of insulin in 1921. The drug produced marvelous effects, rescuing childrens and adults from the lethal grip of diabetes. yet as Chris Feudtner demonstrates, the following transformation of the affliction from a deadly situation right into a power disease is a narrative of luck tinged with irony, a revealing saga that illuminates the complicated human results of clinical intervention. Bittersweet chronicles this background of diabetes during the compelling views of people that lived with this illness. Drawing on a impressive physique of letters exchanged among sufferers or their mom and dad and Dr. Elliot P. Joslin and the workers of physicians at his famed Boston hospital, Feudtner examines the adventure of residing with diabetes around the 20th century, highlighting alterations in therapy and their profound results on sufferers' lives. even supposing fascinated by juvenile-onset, or sort 1, diabetes, the topics explored in Bittersweet have implications for our knowing of adult-onset, or sort 2, diabetes, in addition to a bunch of alternative illnesses that, due to medicines or scientific advances, are being remodeled from acute to power stipulations. certainly, the story of diabetes within the post-insulin period offers a great chance for exploring the bigger questions of ways medication alterations our lives.
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Extra resources for Bittersweet: Diabetes, Insulin, and the Transformation of Illness
Following the First World War, Joslin started to put carbon copies of his correspondence with patients into their ﬁles. He would typically begin his letters by mentioning any particular concerns that the patient had Diabetes History raised, then he would describe what the physical examination, laboratory tests, electrocardiogram, and X-ray studies had uncovered, and he concluded with a paragraph or two about the treatment plans Joslin and the patient had discussed. Joslin also wrote letters to patients whom he had not seen in the preceding two or three years.
Among the initial medical reports on insulin, perhaps most compelling was Ralph H. Major’s introduction to the readers of the Journal of the American Medical Association regarding the drug’s miraculous eﬀects, communicated with two contrasting photographs: ‘‘The boy shown in Figure is an example of severe juvenile diabetes. At the time the picture was taken, Dec. , , he had had diabetes for two years, and it had been impossible to render [his urine sugar-free] except on a diet of per cent.
Authoritative? Compassionate? The letters reveal not only how diabetics wished to be perceived but also their concerns of how they might be perceived—concerns about their public image that shaped their experience with diabetes and their relationships with physicians. At a more matter-of-fact level, the patient letters also provide a unique source of information about the kinds of lives that diabetics lived. They detail the daily rituals of eating and testing and injecting, as they also disclose how these routines did or did not ﬁt into the patient’s family and work life.
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