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A different kind of courage

February 13, 2009

Originally published in the Redlands Daily Facts on 1/19/2009. Written by Megan McClain.

The Joslin Diabetes Center awards medal to Redlands woman for courageously managing her disease for 50 years without any serious complications

REDLANDS - Arlene Goodrich has won a medal for her courage and success in managing diabetes for 50 years.
The 78-year-old Redlands woman received the medal from the Joslin Diabetes Center for being insulin-dependent for 50 years without any serious complications.
Goodrich didn't know what was wrong with her when she was 28. She was out shopping with a friend in Riverside at Christmas time and felt weak.
"I just remember drinking Orange Juliuses to get my energy up," Goodrich said.

Dr. James Fallows, her doctor at Beaver Medical Clinic, diagnosed her with Type 1 diabetes in December 1958. Type 1 diabetes, which used to be called juvenile diabetes, is a disease that destroys the body's ability to make insulin, a hormone that stores and breaks down energy, often in the form of glucose or sugars.

The brass medal she received in the mail Jan. 9 is inscribed "for 50 courageous years with diabetes." Goodrich had heard of the Joslin Diabetes Center's medal program from her endocrinologist, Dr. Victor Perkel at Beaver Medical Group in Redlands.

Her 50-year anniversary of being diagnosed with diabetes was Dec. 8, 2008. She filled out the paperwork two years ago and has been awaiting the medal since then.
"I'm extremely proud of her," Perkel said. He knew she was receiving the award, and the two of them had been discussing it at her regular appointments.
He said Goodrich's success was due to her efforts to keep herself clear of complications over the years. "Studies show how you turn out depends on how you control it," Perkel said of the disease.
Since the medal program's inception in 1970, the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston has awarded about 2,400 50-year medals internationally.

Perkel has practiced in the field of endocrinology since 1976. He said that when he began, the method of testing blood sugar was "very crude." To test blood sugar levels, patients had to boil urine, add tablets and check the color. Perkel said the tests picked up only the higher sugar levels, and likened them to a temperature gauge of "hot, hotter, hottest." He also said the insulin types available when he first began working were less sophisticated than today's offerings of insulin. Goodrich said when she was diagnosed, she had to weigh her food and use a diabetic food exchange to plan her meals. She used paper strips to test urine for sugar levels and got tested at the doctor's office every three months. Even then, the test at the office was only for the food she had eaten that day. "You could have so much potatoes, or a slice of bread," she recalled. "That would be your carbohydrates." Goodrich also had to avoid eating sugars. "With four kids, I would bake cookies and stuff like that," Goodrich said, "and I wouldn't ever lick my fingers." "It takes that type of dedication," Perkel said. He has had Goodrich as a patient for the last five years, and helped her get an insulin pump, a beeper-sized mechanical device that delivers insulin into the body and can be adjusted. Goodrich exercises on a treadmill three times a week. She said she has also been on a Tuesday morning women's bowling league at Empire Bowl in Redlands for the last 15 years, after she quit working as a secretary in the San Bernardino County Supervisors' office.

The Joslin Diabetes Center also wants her to go to Boston to participate in a study because of her 50 years without complications. The center offered her a round-trip flight and a night's stay at a hotel. She would have spent a day in testing, having her DNA tested, going through blood and eye tests, having an electrocardiogram and more to help understand how the 50-year medal recipients had made it so long without serious complications.
Goodrich has decided to decline the testing because of her age and the effort of traveling to Boston.

Arlene has been a patient at Beaver since the early 1950's. She received care from all the founders including an operation by Dr. Ralph Weaver with Dr. Meredith Beaver assisting, her child's tonsillitis treated by Dr. Espey Cannon, a general appointment with Dr. Joseph Hayhurst and eye care by Dr. Gordon Witter.  "I'm a founding patient," Arlene said