NZ's longest surviving T1 diabetes sufferer
Sun, 09 Dec 2012 6:31p.m.
By Jesse Peach
New Zealand is home to the world's longest survivors of type 1 diabetes. Eighty-four-year-old Winsome Johnston has defied the odds, in more ways than one.
Ms Johnston is always has lots of people to buy presents for around Christmas – four generations, in fact. But none of this was meant to happen.
“They told me if I remember rightly, the doctors, that my life wouldn't be that long,” she says.
Ms Johnston was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of six. Her sister had it too, but died at the age of 16.
Now, aged 84, Ms Johnston's the longest surviving person with type 1 diabetes in the world. She's had it for 78 years.
“I was determined in those days to do what I wanted to do and hopefully it would help me with the little bit of knowledge that I had.”
She was told she would never have kids. But she's had four, including twins. And now she has eight grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and another one on the way.
Rab Burton also has type 1 diabetes and is Ms Johnston's diabetes nurse. She is his number one patient, having never missed an appointment in eight years.
“I've learned so much from her,” he says. “And every day I tell her story to people.”
Mr Burton says the key to Ms Johnston's remarkable health is quite simple: discipline. He says the main problem for diabetics is keeping up with the unrelenting task of monitoring every single thing they eat.
He says he's never met someone as strict and determined as Ms Johnston.
“She followed everything to the book. I think that's her secret.”
There are two main types of diabetes. Type 2 has reached epidemic proportions in New Zealand. That's often caused by poor diet or obesity.
But no one knows what causes type 1, which is what Ms Johnston's got. And that's on the rise too.
Young Aaliyah developed type 1 diabetes when she was just three-years-old, which came as a shock for her mum, Serena Underwood.
“Unmanaged diabetes can shorten your life,” says Ms Underwood. “So it's something that is quite a worry if her [Aaliyah’s] sugar levels are too high or too low. There are lots of complications that can come from that.”
Ms Underwood says while type 1 diabetes is possible to manage, it can seem impossible at times. So she went to the woman who knows better than anyone about what living with diabetes is like – Ms Johnston.
The record-breaking survivor gave young Aaliyah a simple tip or two about how to live with diabetes.
“Just as long as you can remember to do all the right things and not eat the wrong things,” says Ms Johnston. “But I know it's sometimes hard if you go to parties isn't it? But I think if you always tell the person who's having a party that there are certain things you can't eat, then it makes it a lot easier.”
Ms Johnston would like her story to give hope to kids like Aaliyah, who are among the 220,000 New Zealanders living with diabetes.
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1/02/2013 7:31:58 a.m.
Roger Krzeminski wrote:
My Best Friend/Spouse passed away on 1/7/13. Gloria was diagonsis with type 1 at the age of five. She was born on 4/20/46. Gloria had diabetes for 62 years. All thru those years Gloria never deviated from her diet. She knew the rules and stuck by them. I have met a more discplined person then Gloria. She tested 5 time a day and took her shots. She had a regimengt and stuck to it. Gloria enjoyed a full life raising two children and two granchildren. She played softball, enjoyed bowling, swimming and was a great soccer coach. She never complained about having a bad day. Every day was a blessed day. She loved life. Gloria was tenacious on her diet. Every Dr that met her was always amazed on her longivity with the diabetes. She never let the disease manage her, Gloria managed the disease. She had a career in assessing.
She touched a pletra of people. Gloria made me a more discpline person with all my endovers. She will be missed.
I must complete you on your lonigity. You also are tenacious in your regiment. Play by the rules, and the rules will allow you to survie.
25/01/2013 3:37:31 p.m.
margaret chapman wrote:
My son passed way 21 mth ago,he was 29 years old he got Type 1 at the age of 20, he could not be disciplined enouoghIm sure he did not think he would pass away, a huge loss for us his family, as we miss him so much. he had Heart Desease. Arterys were 95% blocked. He even worked a full shift the day before. I wish for more support the young Guys.
15/01/2013 8:00:50 p.m.
Great message of discipline, but does anyone else think that 84 is not old enough?
4/01/2013 3:57:24 p.m.
Thank you for this story. My daughter was diagnosed with t1 in December 2012.
3/01/2013 6:45:32 p.m.
Connie Stuart wrote:
Thank you for the interesting and inspiring article about Mrs. Johnston. I also was diagnosed at age 6 and have been type 1 diabetic for 56 years. I have a 34 year old son. Reading about Mrs. Johnston has really given me hope for a much longer future. Thanks for introducing me to this lady.
3/01/2013 5:17:23 p.m.
What a lovely lady. I wish my 6 yr old daughter (who has type 1) could meet her. I will show her this video for sure.
24/12/2012 1:46:57 p.m.
What a truly inspirational lady. May you live a long, happy and healthy life Win. I have lived with T1 for 30 years and people like you give me hope. Thanks also to TV3 for making the distinction between type 1 and 2 Diabetes. Many sources of media never do this and we are all lumped into the same boat.
14/12/2012 4:56:28 p.m.
Jo Dunningham wrote:
Thanks so much for the report on my mum Winsome Johnston! I am one of the twins that she 'produced' so feel so fortunate that my wonderful mum is still going strong despite many ups and downs during her life. She is an inspiration to us all.
Thanks again. Kind regards,
13/12/2012 6:28:48 a.m.
Kevin Baer wrote:
11/12/2012 9:58:30 a.m.
Karen Grimley wrote:
Wow, my daughter was newly diagnosed this year just after her 2nd birthday. My biggest fear was that this would shorten her life. You are living proof this isn't a certainty. Thankyou for sharing- Karen (uk)
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