South Shields diabetes nurse receives medal after successfully managing her own condition for 60 years
A nurse who discovered she had diabetes as she treated others with the condition has been recognised for successfully managing and living with it for 60 years.
Margaret Empson, from South Shields, was working on a diabetic ward at the Royal Free Hospital in London, aged 22, when she noticed she had two of the symptoms - a need to go to the toilet often and an unquenchable thirst.
She took a testing kit home, leading to a “severe reprimand” from her ward sister. But it and follow up tests later confirmed she had Type-One diabetes.
Now the 82-year-old has been presented with the Robert Lawrence Medal by the charity Diabetes UK to mark the milestone of Ms Empson having lived for six decades with the condition.
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The honour was presented to her by Dr Shaz Wahid, Medical Director of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, during a visit to South Tyneside Hospital’s diabetes department.
Margaret, who also helped the newly diagnosed in the community as diabetic health visitor, said: “I was very fortunate that I was working on the diabetic ward, so I knew the do’s and don’ts and was also very aware of the consequences of not behaving.
“It can be a difficult life to lead because people don’t realise how serious it can be coping with hypoglycaemia.
“I’m very proud to get the medal. It shows it can be done if you stick to the rules.”
Dr Wahid said Margaret was living ‘proof’ that it is possible to lead an active and full life with the condition, if managed well.
He said: “I was delighted to be able to present Margaret with her RD Lawrence Medal in recognition of the fact she has lived with diabetes for 60 years, especially as I have treated her in the past as one of my own patients.
“I and the diabetes team have been guides whilst she has self-managed her diabetes exceptionally well over the years.
“She is proof that with the right approach and attitude, it is possible to lead an active life with the condition.
“It is generous of her to share her diagnosis story, especially as it shines a light on how she has worked to support other patients facing the same daily challenges.”
Health professionals working with the condition have also praised Margaret’s efforts, saying they were in awe of the 82-year-old’s achievements while living with the disease.
“We are just in admiration of Margaret,” said Brigid Marron, a diabetes specialist nurse.
“There is no holiday from diabetes and it can be very difficult to live with, but Margaret exemplifies how it can be done.”
Margaret moved to the North East 20 years ago with her late husband Brian, who died 11 years ago, so they could be near son Phil, 52, as he took up a job at a Sunderland bank.
She is a member of the Zing choir, is part of an art group which meets in the Bridges shopping centre and takes calligraphy classes.