The Holocaust, diabetes and a tale of resilience

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04/16/2010

Here's a shout out to a blog I stumbled across this morning. It's called a sweet life and it's about diabetes. It caught my eye because a recent posting contained a fascinating history lesson.

After wondering how people with Type 1 diabetes managed to survive the Holocaust, the blogger dug up a story about Eva Saxl, who, along with her husband, fled Nazi-occupied Prague for a Jewish ghetto in Shanghai, which was Japanese occupied at the time. The Japanese began shutting down pharmacies and insulin was impossible to get, except through the black market.

Eva and her husband, Victor, with the aid of a medical textbook, created their own insulin by, get this, extracting it from the pancreases of water buffaloes. Keep in mind that they also had to keep the insulin bacteria-free as well as at proper potency level and you start to realize just how crazy—and brave—this was.

But, it not only worked, Eva and Victor were able to make enough insulin for other diabetics living in the ghetto.

The Saxls eventually landed in the United States, where Eva became a spokeswoman for the American Diabetes Association at a time when most people with diabetes kept it hidden.

I guess I shouldn't complain about those expensive vials of insulin I get from CVS.

Theresa Flaherty

Comments

All kinds of questions come to mind:

How many doses of insulin does one water buffalo pancreas produce? How long were they in the ghetto and how many buffs did they have to kill? Did they eat the rest of the buffalo?