Jane Owen

Jane Owen

I owe my life to diabetes clinical research

Jane Owen of Plymouth believes she wouldn’t have survived Diabetes if it wasn’t for treatment advances informed by clinical research.

Having taken part in five research studies Jane says she can manage her health condition better and feels she is giving something back to the NHS which has looked after her so well.  

Jane was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was 11 years old. She recalls a hospital admission to have her condition stabilised with insulin when ‘syringes and needles being boiled and kept in surgical spirit and urine testing were the order of the day.’  

She added: “I have vague memories of being told I would need injections for the rest of my life and later became aware that I would have a limited life expectancy so when I started physiotherapy training in 1972 I researched this for myself in the medical library and found that I had about 30 years life expectancy. Medical science and medicine has progressed enormously and I have my Nabarro Medal for surviving over 50 years with Diabetes.”  

Retired physiotherapist Jane says over the decades she has experienced first-hand the significant improvements achieved in treatments and management of diabetes from mixed insulins, carbohydrate portion diets, insulin pens and multiple injections to most recently the insulin pump. These advances have been informed by clinical research.  

Jane has participated in five clinical research studies since her very first one in January 2011.  

She wholeheartedly supports clinical research participation saying: “I feel it is very worthwhile participating in research studies and trials. I wouldn’t still be here and leading an active life it is wasn’t for health research. Education has proven to be effective and has empowered me to manage diabetes. As a result of research diabetes checks haveimproved, particularly for monitoring complications. For example after five decades of living with diabetes I am still able to feel sensations in my feet which foot checks annually have helped to maintain.”  

The first study Jane took part in looked at reducing hypoglycaemic events in Type 1 Diabetes which involved multiple injections which Jane was already having, and continuous blood glucose monitoring.  

Hypoglycaemia or a ‘hypo’ is an abnormally low level of glucose (sugar) in the blood which means the body doesn’t have enough energy. It is commonly associated with diabetes and mainly occurs if a diabetic takes too much insulin, misses a meal or exercises too hard.  

For her debut study participation Jane had to keep accurate blood glucose records and detailed hypo diaries. Jane says: “There was a lot of medical support to improve my blood glucose control and I reduced my hypos a lot. I also found my hypo awareness greatly improved during the study too.”  

Two other studies were linked to this one looking at cognitive ability under conditions of medically induced hypoglycaemia. This involved a full day visit to the research unit following fasting for blood samples to be taken to test for glucose and blood pressure checks. A separate aspect involved consenting to her blood samples being used to discover whether there were any potential genetic factors which contributed to severe hypoglycaemia and loss of hypo warning symptoms.  

The fourth clinical study Jane participated in looked at causes of diabetes and its complications including environmental and genetic factors. For this Jane gave urine and blood samples and a healthy volunteer in her family gave urine and fasting blood samples.  

Jane is currently taking part in a clinical trial being conducted at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth which is looking at reducing vascular adverse lesions in Type 1 Diabetics with a medication used for Type 2. This involves three monthly phone calls alternated with attending research clinic appointments for blood samples and keeping diaries. Jane says it involves considerable screening.  

Commenting on the commitment she has made to clinical research Jane added: “The amount of commitment required varies from study to study. I am prepared to make the commitment in order to progress knowledge of diabetes for everyone. On a personal level my health and quality of life benefits from the in-depth regular screening and monitoring.”  

A passionate advocate for clinical research participation, Jane said: “I believe we should all be proactive in managing our own health and wellbeing.”