DHI Media Correspondent
VAN WERT — Van Wert resident, Jean Leiendecker, will never forget the day when her mother picked her up at school, broke out crying, and told her that she was confirmed as having Type I Diabetes.
“My doctor at that time hadn’t had much experience with diabetes,” recalls Leiendecker these days. “He put me on a sugar-free diet. That didn’t work well.”
That was 75 years ago, and Leiendecker was 10-years-old. Recently, through the Lilly Diabetes Journey Program, she received the 75-year medallion milestone award for surviving 75 years of the dreaded disease. The award recognizes diabetes patients in the United States who have successfully managed their disease with the help of insulin for 75 years.
Leiendecker received a cover letter with the presentation. It stated that she was one of 90 people in the country who had survived the disease for 75 years. The award winners are also invited to have their names engraved on a special monument on the Lilly Campus.
“My certified diabetes educator in Fort Wayne had read about it,” said Leiendecker. “She had read about it and told me about it. We talked about it. She wrote to them (Eli Lilly) last year in the fall and they responded.”
Initially, the no-sugar diet combined with the diabetes stunted her growth. “The next summer I didn’t grow so my mom took me to Dr. Irvin. His mother was diabetic so he understood it better. He put me on insulin and I started growing right away. My health improved with the insulin,” Leiendecker said.
When Leiendecker and husband, David, a World War II veteran, were married in 1953, the doctor put her on a “longer lasting” type of insulin. These days, she is on a modern pump, one that is maintained by David.
“He has been so good working along beside me in all of this,” said Leiendecker. “He has given me my shots and cooked for me. He knows exactly what I need.”
Following his return from service, David received a teaching degree from Bowling Green State University. After teaching school for 14 years at Ohio City, David received a master degree and became a guidance counselor at Lincolnview.
Following retirement from education, he became a maintenance supervisor, first at Central Insurance and then at First United Methodist Church where he was a building superintendent for a major renovation there.
The Leiendeckers have three sons, Jonathan and Thomas who live in Ohio City and David Nicholas who lives in Warren, Illinois.
The Leiendeckers also served as house parents at Marsh Foundation for 16 months.
These days, Leiendecker admits that she is getting emotionally drained from having to cope with the diabetes for 75 years. She smiles when she reflects on how happy her mother was when, at age 25, she and David were married.
“She knew that I needed somebody to help me. She thought so much of him. He has been so good,” said Leiendecker. “I’m ready for a different world,” she said. “Anytime I am ready to quit having diabetes. I’m looking forward to Heaven where I won’t have to deal with the disease or insulin anymore.”