Professor Thomas Harrison is from the University of Liverpool’s School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology
“Tonight, the Active Learning Laboratory (the glass Rubik’s Cube above Engineering) is joining other landmark buildings across the world in being lit up blue. This is to mark World Diabetes Day , an annual event that seeks to raise the level of understanding of diabetes, and to raise funds for its treatment and cure.
“My role in arranging this has nothing to do with my professional life. My younger son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes four years ago (this coming Saturday).
Lead a life as unaffected as possible
“I should be clear at the outset. There are many worse conditions than Diabetes. Since Fred Banting, Charles Best and others – in an age before such intense concern with research ethics, in 1922 – discovered insulin by extracting the pancreases of countless dogs, the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes is not the death sentence it was. The aim of modern treatment is to ensure that those with diabetes should lead a life as unaffected as possible by their condition.
“Nevertheless, Type 1 is both life-shortening and also life-changing in a whole raft of ways.
“Then there is the emotional impact of fluctuations in blood sugar: moments of inconsolable grief, for example, over something infinitesimally small. And the impact on ‘unaffected siblings’, the complexity and depth of which I am only beginning to appreciate four years on.
“One thing I would never have guessed is the social impact: the number of occasions on which children with diabetes are disinvited from play-dates, or never invited to children’s parties in the first place. (Children, by contrast, take it all in their stride.)
“And I have not even touched on the impact of type 2 diabetes, a very different and far more common condition, one with huge implications for the NHS – and on which Liverpool is leading in research terms
“Why raise awareness of diabetes? First, of course, to ease the lives of those who live with the condition through greater understanding. But also for other, more urgent reasons. To ensure that the onset of Type 1 is recognised speedily (before children plunge into a diabetic coma), or that the thousands of those with undiagnosed Type 2 seek treatment before complications develop. And to encourage the research that is both improving treatment and building steadily (like putting together a puzzle, as my son says) towards a cure.
“So, if you notice the Active Learning Laboratory lit up blue, think of it as one of a number of beacons, marking the extraordinary progress of research to date, the effect of that work on countless lives – and the work still to be done.”
Linking in to the International Diabetes Federation campaign, there will be a Diabetes awareness event for staff and students at the Sherrington Building, between 10 am and 2pm today, where a Diabetes Nurse Consultant, together with practice and university health advisors, will provide information about diabetes, its management and general healthy lifestyle advice.
At 4pm the Harrison Hughes Building – the School of Engineering on Ashton Street – will be lit up in blue, to highlight the World Diabetes Day ‘Think Blue: Wear Blue’ campaign, where students will be encouraged to take some exercise, such as a walk , cycle ride, aerobic workout, hula hooping, flash mob or dancing.
For more information about the events today, contact Peta Navein on 07766 814 057.