When I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 22 (19 years ago for those who don’t want to do the math), my doctor told me not to worry. Diabetics could live “nearly normal” lives, by which I figured he meant taking quiet walks on the beach and holding down a steady job. I was pretty sure my adventurous lifestyle was out of the question. He also told me that in the next five or ten years there would probably be a cure for diabetes. They were that close.
I believed him. I thought I had nothing to worry about. All the bad “complications” of the disease (isn’t that a nice way of putting it?) wouldn’t have time to set in. I was practically off scott free. No need to worry about blindness or amputating a limb or heart disease. They were ON THE VERGE of a cure. Besides I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Just ask my husband. Give me a goal, and I’ll outreach it. My A1C (the little blood test number used to check how good or bad you’ve been for the trailing 3 months, kind of like Santa’s little list but way more important) has always been in the normal range. My doctor once told me I was a “rockstar patient”. I tried not to let that go to my head.
I am also exceedingly optimistic. I kept repeating my doctor’s earlier mantra–there’s going to a cure for this disease ANY DAY NOW. I was sure of it. Until it dawned on me. No one had gotten any closer to a cure since I was diagnosed. The only news about Diabetes was of the Type 2 kind. T1 and T2 are actually not even the same disease at all. The result–a pancreas that doesn’t produce adequate insulin–is the same. But the cause is entirely different. And since most people have T2 diabetes, very little seemed to be happening on the T1 front.
Or at least that’s what I thought. A “cure” for T1 diabetes would be some way of transplanting the pancreatic cells that create insulin (aka islet cells). Until now, these transplants all lead to rejection. But now, Scott King and Hanuman Medical Foundation have created the Islet Sheet, which is a device that produces these cells but protects them from the patient’s immune system. King, a diabetic himself, will be the 13th patient in his own study, which hopes to implant these protected sheets under the skin of patients and essentially cure them of diabetes.
Needless to say, my fingers are crossed. Patient 13 is a documentary film based on the study, following the patient’s progress. While the study hasn’t yet started on humans, they are moving quickly.
Here’s a look at the trailer for the project. Let’s hope this thing works.