Di­a­betes star­tles mum

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE - BEN AU­LAKH

When Julie Po­tatau’s eight-yearold son was di­ag­nosed with type 1 di­a­betes, she was left ‘‘shocked’’ by the dis­cov­ery.

She said find­ing out a few months later that her six-year-old daugh­ter had the same con­di­tion was even harder to take.

There­fore, on Tues­day, the Timaru mum de­cided to mark World Di­a­betes Day by open­ing up about how to spot the ill­ness and how to live with it.

The mother of two, who works as an ad­min­is­tra­tor at Timaru Hos­pi­tal, said her son, Quinn, was di­ag­nosed just be­fore Christ­mas.

A range of symp­toms had prompted her to take him to the doc­tor.

‘‘He had been drink­ing ex­ces­sively and pee­ing ex­ces­sively for about six weeks, and then he started get­ting a sore tummy and he lost weight.

‘‘That’s when I took him to the doc­tor, it was like a five minute con­sul­ta­tion.

‘‘They did a finger prick test [and said], you can go straight to hos­pi­tal, we think he has got di­a­betes.

‘‘I was very shocked, ini­tially I thought about di­a­betes ... but I sort of dis­missed it be­cause I didn’t re­ally think about kids get­ting it.’’

Then six months af­ter her son’s di­ag­no­sis, her six-year-old daugh­ter, Jade, got up to pee two nights in a row.

Straight away she con­tacted the South Can­ter­bury District Health Board (SCDHB), Jade was tested, and found to have the same ill­ness.

Both Jade and Quinn had been ‘‘very re­silient and brave’’, she said.

How­ever hav­ing di­a­betes had changed both of their lives for­ever.

‘‘You have to do a lot more planning, it af­fects ev­ery as­pect of your life, they can’t just go, ‘I’m go­ing off to go for a bike ride’.’’

Po­tatau said she had to check with her son about ‘‘what have you had to eat, have a test be­fore you go, have you got your kit, take a drink, what time will you be back?

‘‘Ex­er­cise, food, in­sulin, you have to bal­ance ev­ery­thing.’’

The treat­ment reg­i­men of both chil­dren was also pretty strict, she said.

‘‘Jade has two in­jec­tions of in­sulin a day, and about six to eight finger pricks ... that will de­cide how much in­sulin we give her.

‘‘Quinn has a big dose of long act­ing in­sulin in the morn­ing, and he just has a lit­tle bit of fast act­ing to cover meals ... he has about six to eight finger pricks a day.

Given that she ‘‘didn’t know any­thing about di­a­betes be­fore it was thrust upon us’’, Po­tatau said it was im­por­tant to ‘‘make peo­ple more aware of the symp­toms’’,

The main signs were ex­ces­sive thirst and uri­na­tion, blurred vi­sion, weight loss, stom­ach pains and vom­it­ing, she said.

‘‘Es­pe­cially when Jade was di­ag­nosed I had peo­ple say­ing to me, ‘ what did you do when you were preg­nant, what were you feed­ing them’?

‘‘I was like ‘it’s not that, it’s an auto-im­mune dis­ease, I can’t do any­thing about it’.’’

SCDHB di­a­betes nurse spe­cial­ist, Karen Tol­lan, said there was ‘‘just a bit of mis­un­der­stand­ing about the two dif­fer­ent types’’ of di­a­betes.

‘‘Type 1 is an auto-im­mune dis­ease, the body de­stroys the pan­creas, the area of the body that makes in­sulin,

‘‘Peo­ple with type two di­a­betes have in­sulin but it’s less af­fec­tive, the body be­comes re­sis­tant to that in­sulin.

‘‘Peo­ple say you have eaten too much sugar, for peo­ple with type 1 that’s not true, sugar, obe­sity, def­i­nitely af­fects type 2.’’

The fo­cus of this year’s World Di­a­betes Day is the num­ber of woman liv­ing with the dis­ease, es­ti­mated at around 200 mil­lion glob­ally.

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