A BALLYDUFF mother and son joined Diabetes UK Northern Ireland at Stormont last week to mark World Diabetes Day and launch the charity’s new Children and Young Person’s Campaign.
Lynette and Curtis Irvine supported the initiative which aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of Type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes UK Northern Ireland has warned that more must be done to create awareness of the seriousness of Type 1 diabetes and the fact that 1 in 4 young people with diabetes are becoming dangerously ill with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) before a diagnosis is made due to vital symptoms not being spotted.
The campaign aims to tackle the biggest problems faced by young people with Type 1 diabetes and their families over the next 5 years.
The first phase of the campaign, entitled The 4 Ts of Diabetes, focuses on creating awareness of the four main symptoms of Type 1 diabetes- Toilet, Thirsty, Tired, Thinner – among parents, carers, teachers and healthcare professionals.
There are around 1,038 children under the age of 17 living with Type 1 diabetes in Northern Ireland and almost 1 in 4 of these reached DKA before a diagnosis was made. DKA can develop quickly and occurs when a severe lack of insulin upsets the body’s normal chemical balance and causes it to produce poisonous chemicals known as ketones. If undetected, these ketones can result in serious illness, coma and even death.
Lynette Irvine’s son Curtis (now 15) was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes aged 10 and ended up critically ill with DKA before he was diagnosed.
“Curtis was displaying all of what I now know are the typical symptoms of Type 1 diabetes - thirst, running to the toilet, tiredness, etc. I became very concerned when he began vomiting violently and developed a sweet smell on his breath. I contacted the GP and got an appointment later that day and when he asked me what I thought was wrong with Curtis, something stuck in my head about thirst and I told him I thought Curtis might have diabetes, even though I didn’t know much about the condition.
“The doctor immediately dismissed this, saying that when a child becomes diabetic it hits him like a train - not just small symptoms here and there. “He sent Curtis into the nurse for some blood tests and we were told to come back in three weeks if he was no better. Someone was obviously looking down on us that day as the nurse happened to check Curtis’s blood glucose level and it showed 34.
“A normal level would be between 4 and 7. She called for the doctor immediately.
“Curtis was sent to the Royal straight away where we were told he was in advanced DKA. He was placed on a drip and given insulin and he remained in hospital for five days while he recovered and we were trained to manage things.
“If I’d known then what I know now about Type 1 diabetes, I might have been able to act sooner and prevent some of the anguish and severity of Curtis’s symptoms.”
“Although we all had a lot of fears at the start when Curtis came home, he’s generally managed really well with his diabetes. I wanted to get involved with Diabetes UK’S campaign as more people, including GPs, need to be aware of the symptoms.