Diabetes Dialogues

An inspiration: Meet Milford - T1D for 70 Years


Type 1 diabetes? There are many ways to describe it, but at its core, it is a lifelong autoimmune disease that changes the way you live from the moment of diagnosis. However, what many people don’t know is that living with type 1 diabetes is often a test of strength and endurance, something no one understood better than Milford Driskill. Born February 19, 1940, Milford was an active kid growing up in Kansas. In 1952, at the age of 12, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes which back then, was known as juvenile diabetes. Insulin had only been discovered 30 years prior and Milford was told if he took his medication and watched what he ate, he could possibly live to be 55 years old. Let’s just say, those doctors weren’t aware of his tenacity to live a life full of possibility well beyond 55 years. Living with type 1 diabetes for 70 years, he saw many tremendous advancements in technology, research, medicines, and what it really meant to live with type 1 diabetes.

At the time of his diagnosis, a glass syringe was used to administer his insulin, then boiled for sanitization after each use. During the cleaning, a ‘wire’ was pushed through the needle to make sure there was no clogging. He started checking his blood sugar with strips when he was a teenager, the strips would turn green or yellow if his blood sugar was high or low. Then, he was able to prick his finger every day, with a machine that would read his blood sugar level. Beyond that limited technology, he was active kid who enjoyed barrel racing at rodeos and even had some awards to show for it.

As he got older, he learned that eating regular meals and watching his calories, along with the exercise he got from doing chores around his farm, taking care of his horses, and doing yardwork, all contributed to staying healthy. Sticking to his diet, he would only eat sugar-free dessert and would pass up sweet desserts even if everyone around him was partaking. There was one advancement that he couldn’t have been more grateful for, his Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). That is the technology that changed his life most dramatically. He never had a pump, and continued to use insulin syringes his entire life, but it was the ability to wear a Dexcom that allowed him to watch his blood sugar all day without pricking his finger that made the biggest difference. His family and friends were always in awe of the person he was.

Milford’s daughter, Tammy, spoke of her father as, “a true medical miracle. Someone who didn’t let his diabetes deter him from living life the fullest.” She went on to say, “He never complained, in over 50 years of my life as his daughter, I never heard him complain, not even once about having diabetes.” He was someone who never second guessed why he had gotten type 1 diabetes; he accepted it and showed his strength every day. “He didn’t let his diabetes stop him, he just kept going forward because he was a fighter!”, said Tammy. Some of his favorite activities included barrel-racing, coaching, and boating. He was active in the community and never used diabetes as an excuse for not being able to do something. He tended to his horses and would trim their hooves, brush, and ride them. Milford enjoyed boating across the country with his family and friends. When asked what advice would Milford give to anyone newly diagnosed, his daughter said, “get a CGM, it changed his life and he said it was the best thing next to insulin.”

Milford had just celebrated his 70th dia-versary, and was well on his way to celebrating his 82nd birthday, when some health setbacks landed him in the hospital. He passed away just before reaching that milestone, but the impact and hope he can give to the diabetes community is immense. Not only reminding us that type 1 diabetes doesn’t have to stop you from pursuing all the things you love, but also showing us that even when the odds are stacked against you, living 70 years with type 1 is possible, so keep on fighting.