Diabetes Then and Now


Chris Milner
Chris Milner

In the year 1960, my then brother Dave had a bout of severe flu.  He had a very high fever with convulsions.  When taken to his doctor, James F. Denaut, MD. In Knox, he was tested and it was determined that he had “sugar diabetes,” as it was known then.

After a stint in the hospital to regulate his blood sugar and to instruct my mother on how to give an insulin shot, he was finally released to come home.

Back then, there were no easy home blood testing methods.  The only way my mom could test my brother’s sugar levels at home was by a urine test that would indicate whether the sugar was low, normal or high.

Shots were not the disposable kind.  The stainless steel needles had to be boiled each time before using.  He was taking multiple shots per day, so the needles could become very dull very fast.  After my brother became a teenager he took over giving himself shots in his legs and stomach.

Being a diabetic in the 60’s was not like it is today.  I can remember many incidents where my brother would slip into a diabetic shock.  We named them :Mickey Mouses.”  When he hallucinated and was unresponsive we gave him orange juice with sugar in it to elevate his low blood sugar.  It was all we had back then.

When my brother turned 21 he started having kidney issues.  Diabetes, kidney and heart issues all go hand in hand.  In 1976 his kidneys were failing and he had to go on dialysis.  The closest center was in South Bend.  He went 3 times a week for kidney dialysis to remove the toxins from his system.

Our family was tested at that time to see if one of us could donate a kidney.  We all went to Indianapolis for the testing.  My father and I were both of the same O+ blood type.  My father went first for more testing and it was found that he had blockage in his arteries leading to his kidneys and they would not let him donate.

It was then my turn to be tested.  After blood testing and other procedures, it was determined that I was “Pre-Diabetic” and they would not let me donate one of my kidneys.  They felt that in my older years I would also become diabetic and need both of my kidneys.

My brother went on the National Transplant registry for a suitable cadaver kidney donation.  After waiting about a year the call came in saying a kidney had been located.  My parents and brother went to Rochester, Minnesota for the transplant.  At first it went well and he was within days of the 90 day mark when most transplants are deemed successful.  Unfortunately his new kidney started to fail and it had to be removed.  He was put back on dialysis.

The dialysis was a wear and tear on my brother’s arteries, and on March 31st. 1980 he suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 25.

The diagnosis and treatment for diabetes has advanced so much in the years since my brother’s illness.  We can now thank modern technology for making diabetes a manageable condition.  I only wish it had come sooner.

Thank you Chris Milner for your story.