Now that we are a few days into the new year, all the talk about what happened in 2012 is coming to a close. Quite a bit has changed with the introduction of new smartphones, tablets and some law changes. Some might say it's like a whole new world. However, it's definitely still recognizable from the year before compared to, for example, 100 years ago.
Over the holidays, I visited the Burnaby Village Museum, which is honouring the carousel's 100th anniversary. The single-level houses that desperately lacked insulation, black wood-burning stoves that were used for more than just cooking, and confusing box-shaped telephones that did not possess telephone numbers all make our modern society look like a scene from the latest sci-fi movie.
Something that stood out to me in the replica town was the drugstore. Apart from the sterile white interior and pharmacists dressed in starched white lab coats, weaving through isles of colourfully labelled bottles of drugs we see in today's drugstores, something was missing. My small army of medical supplies was nowhere to be seen.
As a type 1 diabetic, I have never been without my various devices going wherever I went, even if they are out of sight from everyone else's eyes.
The most important device, an insulin pump, is often mistaken for a cellphone or old MP3 player. Based on information that I input into the device, it tells me how much insulin I need to take to keep my blood glucose in a normal range, but it also delivers a smaller amount of insulin that I need throughout the entire day automatically. Overall, I do not have to think about my health very much during the day. If you think that that sounds impressive, be prepared for the upcoming artificial pancreases that will do everything I need to stay healthy except minor maintenance on the machine and its accessories.
Back in the early 1900s, a diabetic's life was nowhere near as optimistic looking as life is for the approximately 26,000 Canadian youth who live with type 1 diabetes today. Insulin, the medication that controls the elevated blood glucose levels of diabetics, was not discovered until the 1940s so the treatment of the disease was very different.
Back then, a person would starve themselves to keep their blood glucose levels down. The motto of one doctor from the time was, "To starve is to survive."
Contrary to what you would think, this increased a person's life expectancy. Even then, they were lucky to live for another decade, since most of them lived no longer than nine years after getting a diagnosis.
Based on my experience before being diagnosed, that extreme lifestyle seems like something nearly impossible to maintain. I would eat an endless amount of food, always wanting more, yet I was severely underweight because my body was unable to utilize most of the nutrients. If I was asked to starve myself like the diabetics in the early 1900s, I would have never been able to succeed.
If each of us looks back 100 years ago, each of us would be able to find something that we think we couldn't live without missing.
Whether it's a medical device like me, your new smartphone or even just the insulation in your walls, everybody has a reason to be thankful for how much our world has developed recently.
As a challenge for everyone during the upcoming year, let's try to do something that, in 100 years, people will look back on and wonder how we survived without it.
Courtenay Huffman is a student at Dr. Charles Best Secondary in Coquitlam.