Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

World Diabetes Day: Seeing my son with diabetes is heartbreaking, I'd take it from him if I could

Ahead of World Diabetes Day, two women tell Stephanie Bell about living with the condition

Constant worry: Claire Kirby says son Tyrese's diabetes has impacted upon the whole family

It's the disease which is causing doctors and health experts more and more worry, and according to new figures it's on the increase in Northern Ireland. The number of people living with diabetes in the province has soared to more than 80,000 in the past five years.

As World Diabetes Day puts the spotlight on the condition this Thursday a grim new report reveals a dramatic 33% rise in the numbers being diagnosed with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes here. The charity Diabetes UK Northern Ireland has revealed the findings in their first ever State of the Nation report this month.

Diabetes occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood because the body cannot use it properly. If not managed well, both types can lead to devastating complications, including blindness, lower limb amputation, kidney failure and stroke.

Over 1,000 children and young people under 17 have received a diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes, and more than 100 new cases are expected each year if the current trend continues. Diabetes UK Northern Ireland said the report showed that Northern Ireland had the biggest rise in people being diagnosed than any other part of the UK.

A diabetes diagnosis is a devastating blow and has a dramatic impact on the way a patient leads their lives.

We spoke to two local women whose lives have been affected by the disease, including a grandmother with Type 2 diabetes and the mother of a young boy diagnosed with Type 1 at the age of just six. They also reveal how foot cream PediSalve has helped them.

'Seeing my son with diabetes is heartbreaking, I'd take it from him if I could'

Claire Kirby (33) was devastated when her son Tyrese (9) was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes three years ago. Claire is married to Karl (39) an automation engineer. They live in Londonderry and have a younger son Kaden (3).

She says:

I remember Tyrese started to drink loads of water and was losing weight, I could see his wee ribcage sticking out. He was also having pain passing urine. One night he cried out while going to the toilet and I took him to the out-of-hours doctor.

He did a pin prick blood test and Tyrese's sugar levels were off the scale. I still didn't suspect diabetes; I had always associated it with older people and people who are overweight.

It never once dawned on me that it could happen to a child. Apparently if I hadn't gone to the doctor that night Tyrese could have ended up in a coma.

Tyrese was in hospital for a week and that week was full of doctors and specialists coming in to see us to educate us on diabetes.

We went on courses to learn about food and carbohydrate content and what Tyrese can and cannot have.

Everything he eats has to be weighed out so we know exactly what he is eating and how many carbs each different type of food has.

At first he was on six injections a day but this year he got a pump which has made life a lot easier for him and for us.

Before, we had to have very strict meal times which meant that Tyrese couldn't go to birthday parties because he had to eat at certain times.

With the pump we can programme in what he has eaten and it automatically releases insulin as he needs it.

This year for the first time since he was diagnosed we can have our Christmas dinner at a normal time as before we had to eat it at 12 because that's when Tyrese had his main meal.

He can't have sweets like other children which can be hard on him and even with fruit, which has high carb content, we have to be careful.

It affects the whole family. It's heartbreaking. I would take it from him if I could. At first I just wanted to know why and if I had done anything wrong to cause it. I always thought it was a lifestyle choice or you got it because you ate too much chocolate.

I know now it can happen at anyone at any time. I don't think there is enough awareness and there really does need to be, especially for parents.

It's hard to describe what it is like. If I test his blood sugars and they are a bit low going to bed I can't relax all night and I'm in checking him every couple of hours.

I also worry about his feet. I use Pedisalve on his feet and that has given me real peace of mind as I feel confident when he puts his shoes on that his feet are soft and he is not going to get any cracks.

I've also used Marble Hill's Surgisalve on the injection sites which had lumps of hard skin on them. It has taken away all his lumps.

It's a constant worry and my husband and I can't go out at night together anymore as a couple and as for weekends away together, they are a no-no. No-one else understands it like we do, so we couldn't leave Tyrese."

'Once I didn't eat enough and went into a coma, which was very scary'

Teresa Doherty (65) from Londonderry was diagnosed|with diabetes 15 years ago. She is married to Michael, a retired bar manager, and they have four |children and five grandchildren.

She says:

I was vomiting and feeling sick on and off for a few months before I was diagnosed. At first because there is a history of stomach ulcers in my family I was being treated for that.

When I wasn't getting any better I had blood and urine tests done and the results showed I had Type 2 Diabetes.

I had actually just got out of the swimming pool when I got the call. I did exercise a lot and ate well so I was really shocked.

At first they tried to control it with diet but that didn't work and I have to take tablets every day. It is a nuisance disease, I don't think people realise how bad it is to live with. It's not a nice illness.

I would get bad sweats when my blood sugar drops and I have to carry a bottle of Lucozade with me everywhere I go.

It does have a big impact on your life. You have to be very careful about what you eat.

I was out walking once when I had to flag down a taxi because I knew my blood sugars were dropping.

A few months ago I went into a diabetic coma which was really scary. I woke with the paramedics around me calling my name. I know now it was because I hadn't eaten right at dinner the night before.

I was trying to lose a bit of weight and didn't eat enough. I spent a couple of days in hospital.

You have to be very careful about your feet and try not to get any cuts as they can easily become infected. I attend the chiropodist regularly to get my toenails cut.

I know people who have lost their feet because of diabetes and that is scary. Over a year ago I started to use a product produced here in Derry called Pedisalve which a local doctor devised.

It's absolutely brilliant. I haven't had hard skin on my feet since I started to use it and I wouldn't be without it. It's nice to know that it is made locally as well.

My son is 35 and has been diagnosed. I worry about his daughter getting it, although diabetes was never in my family before.

I think people need to be aware of the symptoms and of how difficult it can be for those living with it."

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