When faced with a challenge, I often turn to someone who has been in a similar situation – it can help to hear what has worked for others. That may also be one of the reasons our posts featuring Joslin Medalists are well-received; they are proof that one can live well with diabetes. In hearing the stories of Judi Hoskins, Richard Vaughn, Prudence Barry and Bill Pittman, I have been struck by their dedication and perseverance in living 50-plus years with diabetes.
I was pleased to recently learn that a fellow Sanofi US colleague has also received the Joslin 50-Year Medal. Allow me to introduce you to Kim Stone, Senior Manager, Health, Safety and Environment at the Sanofi US Tucson Research Center.
Growing Up with Type 1 in the 1960s and 70s
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 7 in 1963, Kim didn’t make it easy for his parents, particularly related to eating his fruit and vegetable exchanges. “I was not a vegetable eater,” he said. “Carrots were about the only thing I wanted to eat. When my parents would give me a carrot to eat, I would go outside with it after dinner and I would sometimes stick it in the manhole covers in the street. All the neighbors and my mother and father would see these carrots sticking out of the manhole covers when they would leave in the morning. But generally my parents were supportive and watched out for me wherever they could. They were always proud of me for what I was able to do and manage with my diabetes.”
When Kim was 18, he had a turning point related to his diabetes management, when his ophthalmologist told him he had developed microaneurysms on his left retina. The eye doctor provided a sobering overview of other potential complications associated with diabetes. “Of course it scared me,” Kim said. “For me, good blood sugar control is the secret to it. I made the decision years ago that I had to be on the right track and the only person that could do it was me.”
On the Run…and the Bike…and the Trail
Since then, Kim has adopted a very active lifestyle. “I remember he used to run twice a day,” said Alice, Kim’s wife of 25 years. “He would run before and after work. I didn’t know anyone else that exercised that much. I was also always impressed with the fact that he had no junk food in the house. That was pretty hard for me because I wasn’t a very healthy eater when we met, but he made me get healthier in my food choices.” These days Kim and Alice eat a primarily vegetarian diet with some fish, and Kim runs in the morning before work and bicycles during lunch.
In addition to running and cycling, Kim and Alice enjoy hiking together frequently. The couple tries to spend a few days a month at their cabin in New Mexico. “We also do a lot of wildlife watching,” said Alice. “We set up wildlife cameras and see what’s been running around. We recently got pictures of a mountain lion up behind our cabin.”
Support at Home
Kim points to his wife as a source of support through the years. “Alice has been understanding, especially around dinner time, when I’m getting irritable because my blood glucose is starting to drop down low,” he said. “She would tell our daughter, ‘Don’t speak to your father from 5:30 until when dinner is served.’” Kim also credits his wife with saving his life on numerous occasions, waking in the middle of the night to discover Kim’s blood sugar was dangerously low, and calling the paramedics for emergency assistance. A continuous glucose monitor now helps warn Kim and his wife about his impending lows.
“I try to make healthy meals, too,” said Alice. “I cut things out of our diet that he wants to cut out, though I may not want to, like pizza. I eat pizza outside of the house now because it can cause him to have high blood sugar. Generally I’m just there to discuss stuff with him. I ask him how his appointments go and he’s done the same for me, when I’ve had health challenges. I think we’re a good team on that kind of stuff.”
The Joslin 50-Year Medal
Kim learned of the Joslin Medalist Program as a child, and his endocrinologist encouraged him to apply about a year ago. When Kim received his 50-Year Medal, he sent a copy of the accompanying certificate to his endocrinologist and primary care physician, thanking them for their help in getting him to this point.
For Kim, the Medal represents a milestone. “It means I’ve made it this far against a lot of odds,” he said. “It shows that I’ve been able to persevere and stay under reasonably good control.”
Alice was excited about Kim’s accomplishment. “I’m glad that they have the program with the medals,” she said. “It’s a tough, tough disease. Anybody that has made it 50 years with diabetes should be put up there as a role model. Kim has lived with diabetes and continues to live with it and he is a good resource, I think. We have a few acquaintances that have had a child diagnosed with diabetes and Kim has offered to talk with the parents or the kid.”
I’ve noticed the same thing about Medalists – every one that I’ve talked with seems very willing to share their stories to help others living with diabetes. Their insights are a valuable contribution to the diabetes community and I applaud their efforts. My thanks to Kim and Alice for sharing their story.
All the best,