'I am very grateful to the NHS for making this achievement possible': Well-known Harborough community stalwart marks living with type 1 diabetes for 50 years

Professor Hilary Hearnshaw is president of Market Harborough and District Diabetes UK group – as well as being involved in a host of other local charities and organisations

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 11:14 am

A well-known Harborough community stalwart is marking living with type 1 diabetes for 50 years.

Professor Hilary Hearnshaw is president of Market Harborough and District Diabetes UK group – as well as being involved in a host of other local charities and organisations.

“I am very grateful to the NHS for making this achievement possible. “Excellent clinical care and advice, combined with efficient access to medication and devices, have been essential,” said Hilary.

Professor Hilary Hearnshaw is president of Market Harborough and District Diabetes UK group – as well as being involved in a host of other local charities and organisations.

She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in April 1971 at Leicester Royal Infirmary when a post graduate student at Loughborough University.

The consultant who gave her the diagnosis was Dr John Hearnshaw – and the couple got married less than 12 months later.

“It was a real medical whirlwind romance!,” said Hilary.

Hilary and John lived at East Langton in Harborough for almost 40 years and had two daughters Gill and Sarah.

When John died in 2008, Hilary moved to Market Harborough and threw herself into a whole cluster of local community groups.

They include St Dionysius Church, the Rotary Club of Market Harborough, MH Squash Club, where she is president, South Leicestershire U3A, Diabetes UK Market Harborough, Street Pastors and the Rutland Water osprey project.

Hilary worked at Leicester University as a Senior Lecturer in Primary Health Care.

She then moved on to Warwick University - where she led the research team at Warwick Diabetes Care in the medical school.

“Type 1 Diabetes mellitus (T1DM) requires managing food intake of carbohydrate with taking insulin by injection.

“The trick is to balance these two factors, along with any exercise taken,” said Hilary.

“I’ve been doing this every day for 50 years.

“When I first started I used a glass syringe which needed to be boiled in water to sterilise it after every use.

“I had three injections a day.

“My urine was tested for sugar using a tablet in a test tube.

“It was tricky, but it worked.

“Today insulin is infused using a pump and blood glucose is measured continuously using a patch,” added Hilary.

“Both are run electronically.

“But I must still make all the decisions on what dose of insulin, what food to eat, what exercise to take and when all these should happen.”

To top a remarkable half a century of living with type 1 diabetes, Hilary will receive a special certificate and an Alan Nabarro Medal from Diabetes UK.