Did anyone in the NY area go to the exhibit on the discovery of insulin?
I finally made it on the last day. Seeing those pictures of those kids before and after insulin, and the letters from them and their parents during/after the trials, definitely put things in perspective. I developed T1 at 19-20 and all l I felt at the time was angry/frustrated/depressed (I still do sometimes) but these kids really knew that they were lucky to be alive.
And it all happened so quickly...the comparisons to the development of antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV/AIDS, which did happen in my lifetime, really hit home for me. Although the way the drugs work are as different as the diseases themselves, in its own way I guess insulin was as much an unknown at first as the HIV drugs have been for the past decade. And to think that they got it so right with insulin, overall...some of those first patients went on to live fairly long lives. It gives me hope that modern medicine can get it right for my HIV-positive friends/loved ones.
That said, I think the exhibit itself could have been better. Whoever wrote those informational placards really did not do their homework. My favorite had to be either a) the one that concluded by saying that diabetes (just diabetes) is most likely caused by a combination of genetics, diet, and lifestyle, or b) the one about how far we've come, etc., that said diabetics can now "check their insulin on their iPhones." (I really wondered what that even meant. I was envisioning an app that magically knows how much insulin is still remaining in one's body...either that, or you hold a vial next to the phone and it calculates how many units are left in it?)
The display of vintage insulin pumps was kind of cool - my favorite was the "BetaTron," the 1982 insulin pump which looked very 1982 and probably wouldn't even fit in a pocket - but also kind of incomplete as they didn't show the tubing and cannulas/needles. With some of the models, I really wasn't sure where the insulin went. They seemed to leave a lot of things like that unexplained.
Like, how did the doctors/researchers first come to understand hypoglycemia and how to treat it? (Some of the kids wrote letters home very early on in those first 1922 trials and referred to having "reactions" and eating pieces of candy to feel better, but that was it.) The exhibit also didn't mention longterm complications, not that I needed to wallow in, but they didn't explain the history of bio/tech efforts to maximize blood sugar control. The display literally skipped from Iletin, the original pork-based insulin, to the insulin pump collection, without any explanation for why someone would go through the trouble of lugging around that BetaTron in 1982 rather than shots. Actually, there were some vials of Humulin N (which I once took, in this millennium) on display, but nothing about any earlier attempts to more closely approximate the healthy pancreas's insulin delivery.
Probably because I'm guessing Eli Lilly was not one of the pioneers in long-acting/fast-acting insulin...oh yeah, did I mention that I found it really creepy that the whole thing was sponsored by Lilly? I hadn't even read the acknowledgments on my way in, but I didn't need to - it was kind of clear that this was a big infomercial to tell us how wonderful Eli Lilly is. Oh, but some curator or somebody managed to sneak in a sleazy letter that Lilly sent to endocrinologists when the initial patent expired, warning them not to trust other manufacturers' insulin, because it might not live up to Lilly's high standards. Me thinks NY Historical Society needs a better conflict of interest/corporate relations policy...