Patient Honored for 50-years of Life with Type 1 Diabetes

It’s an accomplishment 50 years in the making. An accomplishment that many doctors 50 years ago would have thought unlikely.

50 year diabetes patient nancy wearing medal of honor

Nancy Pentiuk Phipps, a Henry Ford Health System patient living with type 1 diabetes, was recently honored with a 50-year survival medal from the Joslin Diabetes Center. This award recognizes her achievements in diabetes management and living with insulin-dependent type 1 diabetes for more than 50 years.

First diagnosed at age 6, Nancy was given a 50/50 chance of surviving 25 years, according to doctors at the time.

“When Nancy was diagnosed, the technology available to manage type 1 diabetes was very different than today. Insulin pumps and glucose meters were not yet available, both of which are now widely used diabetes management,” said Shiri Levy, M.D., service chief of Endocrinology at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital and Nancy’s current physician. Prior to being a patient of Dr. Levy, Nancy was a longtime patient of Fred Whitehouse, M.D., retired division head emeritus of Henry Ford Endocrinology.

Because monitoring glucose levels was more challenging at that time, Nancy and her parents had to closely monitor her symptoms and adjust her diet as needed to manage her condition. Her father, now 90-years-old, was a source of inspiration for her from a young age.

“When I was diagnosed, he really got on track with watching his diet and exercising, which set a good example for me to follow as I grew up,” Nancy said. “That example helped me learn how to manage my diabetes. He has always been a great role model. At 90, he still enjoys a very active and healthy life so he has experienced the benefits of this regimen as well.”

Only five percent of people with diabetes have type 1, according to the American Medical Association. People with this form of diabetes are unable to produce their own insulin, which is the hormone needed to get glucose from the bloodstream into cells. To overcome this, Nancy self-administers five insulin shots per day. 

“Most people get up in the morning and brush their teeth or wash their face. I do those too, but I also immediately check my blood sugar and give myself an insulin shot,” Nancy said. “It’s just a normal part of my everyday routine.”

With the help of insulin therapy and other treatments available today, even young children can learn to manage their condition and live long, healthy lives. Considering how far type 1 diabetes has come since her diagnosis, Nancy feels fortunate to be celebrating her accomplishment.

“I’m thankful to be alive and for all the support I’ve had in managing this disease throughout my life,” Nancy said. “If you listen to your body and learn how to manage your diabetes effectively, it really becomes just an inconvenience.”

The Henry Ford diabetes specialists and experts are dedicated to providing high-quality care for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes patients. Learn more about the many ways Henry Ford can help you manage your diabetes.

Call (800) 436-7936

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