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Elizabeth Hughes Gossett


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Elizabeth Hughes Gossett

Elizabeth Hughes Gossett (August 19, 1907 – April 21, 1981), the daughter of U.S. politician Charles Evans Hughes, was the first American, and one of the first people in the world, treated with insulin for type 1 diabetes. She received over 42,000 insulin shots before she died in 1981
Elizabeth Hughes was born August 19, 1907 in the New York State Executive Mansion in Albany, New York, to Antoinette (Carter) and Charles Evans Hughes, who was Governor of New York at the time.

Elizabeth developed diabetes in 1918 at age 11. At the time, the life expectancy of a Type 1 diabetic without treatment was usually no more than a few months. Since it was unable to metabolize sugars, the diabetic body would instead begin to burn fats. The dependence on fat would eventually lead to acidosis, followed by coma and death. The only known treatment was a starvation diet, in which the caloric intake was reduced to a level that the patient could tolerate without showing sugar in the urine. If the diet was followed religiously, a diabetic could expect to live for a couple of years before eventually succumbing to an infectious disease in her malnourished state.[2]

In spring 1919, Elizabeth was brought to Dr. Frederick M. Allen at his special clinic, the Physiatric Institute in Morristown, New Jersey. Dr. Allen put Elizabeth on a strict diet and continued to monitor her condition over the next three years while she lived at home with a private nurse. Elizabeth was 4 feet 11.5 inches (1.511 m) and 75 pounds (34 kg) when she developed diabetes. Under diets that averaged 800 calories per day, her weight fell to 45 pounds (20 kg) by August 1922.[2]

From summer 1921 to spring 1922, a team at the University of Toronto succeeded in isolating the hormone insulin, which type 1 diabetics are unable to produce on their own. Elizabeth’s mother contacted Canadian doctor Frederick Banting, who agreed to take her as a private patient. Elizabeth arrived in Toronto with her mother on August 15, 1922 and began receiving insulin from Dr. Banting. She recovered rapidly, and she was placed on a 2200-2400 calorie weight-gain diet within two weeks. She returned home to Washington, D.C. on Thanksgiving Day 1922

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