Theodore (Teddy) Ryder was born in New Jersey in 1916. At age four he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Ryder was put on the Allen diet to treat his diabetes, which consisted of a starvation diet of about 500-600 calories a day. Under this treatment, most individuals with diabetes lived six to twelve months. Ryder later recalled that at five-years-old he was “twenty-six or seven pounds” and could only walk up three or four steps before he needed help. When his family got word of Banting’s insulin tests, Ryder’s uncle, Dr. Morton Ryder, personally reached out to Banting to ask to include Ryder in the trials. Banting initially told Dr. Ryder that he did not have enough insulin to treat Teddy along with his seven other patients and to bring him in September to be treated. Dr. Ryder wrote a letter to Banting saying that he did not believe Teddy would survive until September as he was so weak he “did not have the energy to play by himself”. Banting agreed to treat Teddy and on July 10th, 1922 he was one of the first people to receive insulin to treat his diabetes. Within two weeks of starting the treatment, Ryder began to gain weight. In September of that year, his family threw Teddy his sixth birthday party and Banting attended. Teddy returned home in October 1922 and continued his treatment.
Ryder stayed in contact with Banting through letters until Banting’s death in 1941. In Ryder’s first letter to Banting he wrote: “Dear Dr. Banting, I wish you could come see me. I am a fat boy now and I feel fine. I can climb a tree. […] Lots of love from Teddy Ryder”.
Ryder went on to become a librarian in Hartford, Connecticut. He had no serious complications from diabetes the rest of his life. In 1990, he attended an unveiling of an exhibit at the University of Toronto honouring the discovery of insulin. He revealed his own before and after insulin treatment pictures in the exhibit as he stood in front of the crowd as a healthy man. Ryder died of heart failure at the age of 76 in 1993. At the time, he was the person treated the longest by insulin in the world.
This post was written by Rachel Delle Palme, Graduate Research Assistant at Banting House NHSC. Rachel is currently completing her M.A. in Public History at Western University.