Jack Eadie was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 22.
The year was 1953 and very little was known about the condition.
So little, the stigma and fear surrounding it meant a short lifespan was expected and his wife Pat was often asked: “Aren’t you afraid of catching it?”
Evidently not, because Jack is celebrating 70 years of living with diabetes and credits Pat for him living this long.
“Every male needs a good woman standing by them, that’s why I married her, my oath. She looked like a young Queen Elizabeth,” he said.
Today, there are 1,500,000 people living with diabetes in Australia, Type 2 represents around 90 percent of all cases of diabetes and with which Jack has lived an unusually long and enriched life.
Jack, now 92 and his wife Pat were foundation members of the first Diabetic Association in the region outside of Melbourne in 1969, and early pioneers of diabetic support, education and funding for families in the community.
They were dedicated committee members for 45 years, bringing much needed doctors, researchers and dieticians to Bendigo and rural surrounds.
Jack’s legacy is far reaching, being one of the first patients to receive laser eye treatment after experiencing haemorrhages in both eyes.
“At first I was told I would lose my eye sight completely in 18 months to two years, but after 18 months the first laser came to Australia from America,” he said.
“I was the ‘Guinea pig'.
“Before that, the only treatment was six weeks bed-rest.”
He endured repeated laser treatments in Melbourne but there were many lessons still to be learned and medical papers to write.
Fortunately, today Jack can still enjoy reading on his iPad with limited vision in only one eye remaining, and for many years was still able to drive and had a fulfilling career as a fitter and turner, a maintenance engineer and a teacher.
Jack’s four children were all taught to give their father insulin shots when they were young.
His daughter Annette, who was five at the time, believes it was her Dad that led her to nursing and a career that has spanned 45 years at Bendigo Health.
“Anette was the best nurse,” Jack said.
“In her grad year she noticed a patient showing signs he was to about to have a ‘hypo’ and alerted doctors and nurses, they didn’t believe her but sure enough a few minutes later he did and it was all a panic then!”
Treatment has changed dramatically in the 70 years Jack has lived with diabetes. Early on, insulin was produced from beef and pig pancreas and cost a week’s wage every month.
Needles were the size of darning needles and Jack used to file them with an emery board to sharpen them to save having to buy new ones. Food was strictly selected, measured and weighed. Blood glucose levels were estimated by a urine test and not very accurate. Knowledge among doctors and nurses was scarce.
Today, Jack pulls out his smart phone and demonstrates swiping it on his waist where a disc is located, and it takes a number reading, simultaneously recording the data and sending to his doctor and diabetes nurse who visits him in his home every six weeks.
Jack has always had to be proactive with his own healthcare since his diabetes diagnosis. Then diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, he received radiation and hormone treatment.
They went to the Prostate Support Group in Bendigo which was starting at the time, Pat said: “I was amazed – the message came out very strongly, men don’t look after their own health, even younger men should get a yearly general health check. That was really emphasised, so we hope young people take more proactive approach to their health.”
“Women and even babies are becoming diabetic, it’s just necessary to look after yourself,” said Jack.
“Life with diabetes hasn’t been easy,” Pat said. “But we are a good team. We always tried to find further education on diabetes to share with others. You never really have a day off diabetes, and you have to keep records and maintain a good regime, keep positive and try and enjoy life.
“Research very important and ongoing. A cure will be found one day.”
The theme for world diabetes day on November 14, 2023 is "Access to diabetes care", with one in 10 adults worldwide living with diabetes. As part of diabetes day, we recognise the work done locally and regionally to provide education and care while working to reduce the impacts of living with diabetes.
The Diabetes Service is incredibly passionate and proud to be able to offer support and help clients to achieve their goals and reach milestones such as Mr Eadie. Diabetes Team Leader, Rebecca Ritchie said.
"It is an absolute honour to lead this team and see the extraordinary services that each individual clinician goes above and beyond to provide, and I would like to say thank you to everyone in (and anyway linked with) the Bendigo Health Diabetes Services that helps to provide access to diabetes care."