My Life with Diabetes
WELL BEYOND A HALF CENTURY AND COUNTING...
In fact, every few months I’d read another article saying that blood sugar normalization wasn’t even remotely possible. How was it that I, an engineer, had figured out how to do what was impossible for medical professionals? I was deeply grateful for the fortuitous combination of events that had turned my life, my health, and my family around and put me on the right path. At the very least, I felt, I was obliged to share my newfound knowledge with others. Millions of “ordinary” diabetics were no doubt suffering needlessly, as I had. I was sure that all physicians treating diabetes would be thrilled to learn how to prevent and possibly reverse the grave complications of this disease.
I hoped that if I could tell the world about the techniques I had stumbled upon, physicians would adopt them for their patients. So I wrote an article detailing my discoveries. I sent a copy to Charles
Suther, who was then in charge of marketing diabetes products for Ames Division of Miles Laboratories, the company that made my blood glucose meter. He gave me the only encouragement I received in this new venture, and arranged for one of his company’s medical writers to edit the article for me.
I submitted it and its revisions to many medical journals over a period of years—a period during which I was continually improving in health, and continually proving to myself and my family, if to no one else, that my methods were correct. The rejection letters I received are testimony that people tend to ignore the obvious if it conflicts with the orthodoxy of their early training. Typical rejection letters read in part: “Studies are not unanimous in demonstrating a need for ‘fine control’”
(the New England Journal of Medicine), or “How many patients would use the electric device for measurement of glucose, insulin, urine, etc.?” (Journal of the American Medical Association). As a matter of fact, since 1980, when these “electric devices” finally were made available to patients, the worldwide market for blood glucose selfmonitoring supplies has come to exceed $4 billion annually. Look at the array of blood glucose meters in any pharmacy and you can get an idea of just how many patients use, and will use, the “electric device.”
Trying to cover several routes simultaneously, I joined the major lay diabetes organizations, in the hope of moving up through the ranks, where I could get to know physicians and researchers specializing in the disease. This met with mediocre success. I attended conventions, worked on committees, and became acquainted with many prominent diabetologists. In this country, I met only three physicians who were willing to offer their patients the opportunity to put these new methods
to the test.
Meanwhile, Charlie Suther was traveling around the country to university research centers with copies of my unpublished article, which by now had been typeset and privately printed at my expense.
The rejection by physicians specializing in diabetes of the concept of blood sugar self-monitoring, even though essential to blood sugar control, was so intense, however, that the management of his company had to turn down the idea of making meters available to patients until many years later. His company and others could clearly have profited from the sale of blood glucose meters and test strips. However, the backlash from the medical establishment prevented it on a number of counts. It was unthinkable that patients be allowed to “doctor” themselves.
They knew nothing of medicine—and if they could, how would doctors earn a living? In those days, patients visited their doctors once a month to “get a blood sugar.” If they could do it at home for 25 cents (in those days), why pay a physician? But almost no one believed there was any value to normal blood sugars anyway. In some respects, blood glucose self-monitoring still remains a serious threat to the incomes of many physicians who specialize in the treatment of the symptoms of diabetes and not the disease. Drop into your neighborhood ophthalmologist’s office and you will find the waiting room three-quarters filled with diabetics, many of whom are waiting for expensive
fluorescein angiography or laser treatment.
With Suther’s backing in the form of free supplies, by 1977 I was able to get the first of two university-sponsored studies started in the New York City area. These both succeeded in reversing early complications in diabetic patients. As a result of our successes, the two universities separately sponsored the world’s first two symposia on blood glucose self-monitoring. By this time I was being invited to speak at international diabetes conferences, but rarely at meetings in the United States. Curiously, more physicians outside the United States seemed interested in controlling blood sugar than did their American colleagues. Some of the earliest converts to blood glucose self-monitoring
were from Israel and England.
By 1978, perhaps as a result of Charlie Suther’s efforts, a few additional American investigators were trying our regimen or variations of it. Finally, in 1980, manufacturers began to release blood glucose meters for use by patients.
This “progress” was entirely too slow for my liking. I knew that while the medical establishment was dallying there were diabetics dying whose lives could have been saved. I knew also that there were millions of diabetics whose quality of life could be vastly improved. So in 1977 I decided to give up my job and become a physician—I couldn’t beat ’em, so I had to join ’em. This way, with an M.D. after my name, my writings might be published, and I could pass on what I had learned about controlling blood sugar.
After a year of premed courses and another year of waiting, I entered the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1979. I was forty-five years old. During my first year of medical school I wrote my first book, Diabetes: The Glucograf Method for Normalizing Blood Sugar, enumerating the full details of my treatment for type 1, or insulin-dependent, diabetes.
In 1983 I finally opened my own medical practice near my home in Mamaroneck, New York. By that time, I had well outlived the life expectancy of an “ordinary” type 1 diabetic. Now, by sharing my simple observations, I was convinced I was in a position to help both type 1 and type 2 diabetics who still had the best years of their lives ahead of them. I could help others take control of their diabetes as I had mine, and live long, healthy, fruitful lives.
The goal of this book is to share the techniques and treatments I have taught my patients and used on myself, including the very latest developments. If you or a loved one suffers from diabetes, I hope this book will give you the tools to turn your life around as I did mine.