John Stavert

Hornsby Shire

Towards the end of 1960, I was 14 years old and gradually started losing weight, drinking lots of water, could no longer ride my bike up hills and got up several times in the night to go to the toilet. My mother noticed all wasn’t well so took me to the family doctor who did a urine test which found sugar in my urine so he sent me for a glucose tolerance test.

While I was in Sydney Hospital, I learned how to test urine, administer insulin injections using a glass syringe and a lot about diet. At the time when I was discharged there was no help for diabetics other than the clinics run by hospitals. They gave me an A3 piece of paper with information about diet, food substitutions list and all the relevant information I needed to manage my condition – but other than that, I was on my own.

When I got home, I continued with my normal routine, while looking after my diabetes as best I could. At the time I was a member of the Scout Association and I did not want to miss out on any activities because of my diabetes, and I didn’t – my most difficult bushwalk was from Richmond to Blackheath following the Grose Valley. I have also been on some long bushwalks since leaving the Scouts including the Overland Track in Tasmania in 1981.

That same year, I joined the Brooklyn Volunteer Bushfire Brigade and from then until my 65th birthday I was an active firefighter. During that time I became a life member of the Rural Fire Service and have a medal for 30 years of service and fought many fires in my time, including the Sydney fires in 1994. I also joined the Hawkesbury River sailing club in 1986 and for 20 years sailed in various races.

Life is much easier now: injecting insulin is easier, I have progressed from sterilising a syringe and needles in boiling water to using pens; home blood glucose monitoring has made keeping good control easy; publications such as the “Traffic Light Guide to Food” has made it easy to know the carbohydrate and fat content in food; Diabetes NSW has lobbied state and federal governments and we now have the NDSS scheme and no discrimination for government jobs – plus I received my 50 year Kellion Victory Medal and I am the convener of the Hornsby Support Group which provides a forum for members to learn more about diabetes and give them an opportunity to discuss their problems with fellow diabetics; and hospitals now have diabetes educators who provide excellent support to people with diabetes.